The leaders of nearly ever major British political party have united in their opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal (TTIP) becoming a means for an American business takeover of the NHS.
The proposed TTIP deal is billed as a trade pact between the U.S. and the European Union (EU). This is meant to be achieved through a liberalisation of regulation allowing businesses based on either side of the Atlantic Ocean to operate under the same rules. However, critics have warned it is a ‘corporate stitch up’ or ‘race to the bottom’, prompting more regulation and benefits for big business.
What TTIP actually represents, however, is not clear owing to the secrecy surrounding negotiations.
Now Unite, Britain’s largest trade union, has launched an appeal to defend the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK against what it believes are the dangers posed by TTIP. The initiative is supported by Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood.
It is also backed by Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness. In attracting such support Unite has succeeded where others have previously failed, by uniting Northern Ireland’s main political parties, reports The Independent.
The relevant element of TTIP thought to threaten the NHS is the creation of a new supranational court — the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) — through which foreign investors could sue national governments or the EU over actions or legislation harmful to their businesses.
Unite and its supporters allege American private healthcare firms barred from investing in the NHS would be able to use the ISDS to claim financial compensation from the British government for lost business. The appeal to which the politicians have signed up reads:
“TTIP must not restrict the scope for decisions by any level of government, public authority or NHS organisation relating to public healthcare [and] must not give U.S. investors new rights that they could use to sue any level of government, public authority or NHS organisation because of policies relating to healthcare.”
Unite says the Conservative Party refused to support the campaign and is not committed to using the government’s veto at the European Council if needed. The Liberal Democrats are yet to respond to the appeal.
Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey said: “David Cameron needs to add action to warm words. Expert legal advice confirms that there are clear dangers arising from TTIP that could impact the NHS unless political leaders are ready to use the veto.”
TTIP negotiations kicked off in February this year and last week in Miami the 11th round of talks finished. Despite the original plan being for a deal to be ready this year, it is now thought there is little chance it will happen before the next American President is inaugurated in 2017.
Mark Dearn, a campaigner from the anti-poverty charity War on Want, said: ““TTIP negotiations are not going as planned. EU governments would be better off listening to their constituents than continuing with these secret negotiations the people of Europe do not want.”