Anneliese and Andrew Smith MP are raising concerns about the so-called 'free trade' agreement currently being negotiated by the US and EU.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) aims to cut barriers to trade by removing differences in how the U.S. and the EU regulate businesses. Cutting barriers to trade can be a good thing, sustaining growth where protectionism can easily produce recession, and many trade unionists in the US support the deal because it could actually level standards up in areas like labour protections. However, the devil is in the detail, and there is a lot of detail to worry about in the proposed TTIP.
A Labour MEP, David Martin, has been leading negotiations on TTIP for the Socialists and Democrats (of which Labour is a member), and has raised two areas of concern: that TTIP could lead to an extension of secret courts, so-called 'investor state dispute settlement', and that it could open up the NHS to private companies. Both Andrew Smith MP and Anneliese Dodds MEP share David Martin's concerns, and agree that TTIP should not be supported by Labour, in the European Parliament or anywhere else, if it looks to threaten our NHS or to extend the reach of secret courts. Both have been discussing the matter with local constituents and trade unionists, and Anneliese met with the campaign group '38 Degrees' in the European Parliament to discuss the issue.
Anneliese Dodds MEP said: "While a free trade deal has big pluses such as more, better paying jobs inside Britain, we cannot conclude an agreement at any price. Along with my fellow Labour MEPs, I will not vote for a deal which looks to threaten our NHS or extend the reach of secret courts, which bypass governments and can threaten social and environmental legislation. If, unfortunately, right-wing parties push through a deal that includes these provisions, the UK government would still have the power to ringfence different areas of public services from privatisation. But given what is currently happening in our NHS, I am concerned that the current UK government would gladly sell our public services even further down the river - so we need to get the right deal agreed in Europe to stop them from doing this".
Andrew Smith MP said: "I share many of my constituents' concerns about what this agreement could mean in practice. As their MP, I stand up for their views in our Parliament, which should have the power to ensure matters as important as our health service and environmental protection are properly safeguarded, with disputes settled in open courts. Whilst fairer and more open trade is good, TTIP could allow for an unwelcome growth of corporate, over democratic power, with potentially grave damage to things we value like our National Health Service and action for cleaner air, and a sustainable environment. The negotiations on this need to be transparent, to respect democratic accountability and safeguard the public interest."