Comparing policies 2015: Where do the parties stand on TTIP?

Part of a series which compares how the main Westminster parties approach particular issues ahead of May’s election. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a controversial proposed trade deal between the EU and the U.S., the negotiations for which have been shrouded in mystery and secrecy. These ultra-secretive negotiations have led some activists to become very uncomfortable about what the clauses and passages of the deal might do to our sovereignty.

Thanks to the work of whistle-blowing organizations like WikiLeaks, we know that the British NHS may be endangered by the trade deal, and we know that the Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism, a key tenet of TTIP, would allow multinational corporations to sue democratic governments if they don’t like the laws they pass.

The Conservative Party: The Tories support negotiations around TTIP because they believe in removing market and trade barriers. Tory party policy maintains that TTIP could bring more money and investment into the country, but members and officials have denounced fears about NHS privatization as “scaremongering” [Source]

In 2014, a spokesperson for the Conservative government’s Department of Health stated that the government has “no intention” of allowing TTIP to interfere with the mechanisms of the NHS, and claimed that the trade deal will not promote competition in the health service and will not harm the principle of free healthcare. [Source]

From the manifesto: No mention of TTIP is made.

Progressive-o-meter rating: 2.

The Labour Party:  Labour supports TTIP because of the potential investment and market benefits, believing that an eventual deal could bring millions in investments to the UK. Labour regards any threat to the NHS posed by TTIP as a “red line” that must not be crossed, and maintains that negotiations must be monitored closely to ensure that public services in general are not at risk [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “We support the principles behind the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Treaty (TTIP). We will hold the European Commission to account on issues of concern, including the impact on public services and the Investor to State Dispute Settlement Mechanism. And we will ensure the NHS is protected from the TTIP treaty” (pg 34)

Progressive-o-meter: 4. The Liberal DemocratsThe Lib Dems support TTIP in principle but claim to have “consistently voted” to ensure that sovereign states have the right to pass their own laws without the Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism interfering [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “After determined negotiations, we now have a clear guarantee from the EU that member states’ rights to provide public services directly and not open them up to competition are explicitly enshrined in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and we will ensure this remains the case for TTIP and any future trade agreements” (pg. 73)
  • “[We will] support negotiations at the World Trade Organisation as well as an ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the USA, which could bring benefits of up to £10 billion a year to the British economy. We will only support an agreement that upholds EU standards of consumer, employee and environmental protection, and allows us to determine how NHS services are provided” (pg 149)

Progressive-o-meter: 4. The UK Independence PartyAside from statements in the manifesto (see below), UKIP has no single policy towards UKIP. Some officials have stated that while they agree with the deal in principle, the NHS must be protected, whilst other officials have called for active inclusion of public services in the trade deal. [Source]

In 2014, Nigel Farage told the International Business Times that he would not make a decision on signing TTIP until he has seen the entire proposal. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “UKIP is committed to securing the exclusion of the NHS, by name, from TTIP. The level of public concern around TTIP makes it a good example of what can potentially go wrong while we remain in the EU and allow EU Commissioners to negotiate every single trade agreement on behalf of twenty-eight member states, including the UK, en bloc” (pg. 17)

Progressive-o-meter: 3. The Green PartyThe Greens are opposed to free trade deals in principle, and claim to have led the fight against TTIP in the European Parliament. They regard the elements of trade deals which affect workers’ rights and public services to be entirely unjustifiable, and claim to completely oppose any inclusion of the NHS in a trade deal [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “TTIP is globalization in its worst form, designed to submit democratically elected governments to the will of private corporations. Companies will be able to take legal action against governments that they think threaten their profits […] Under TTIP: Attempts to bring the NHS and the railways back into public ownership could be financially penalised or blocked” (pg. 74)
  • “Authorizations for genetically modified organisms may be accelerated at the European level and risk assessment standards lowered. Regulation of banks and the financial industry would be harder, if not impossible” (pg. 74)

Progressive-o-meter: 9.

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