We’ve reported before on the EU/US Trade agreement currently being negotiated.
Unless significant changes are made to it, its provisions will pose a major threat to the NHS and to our public services in general.
It will e.g. stop future governments reversing privatisations.
It will allow multi-national companies to sue national governments if their decisions affect the companies’ profits. It will have a major impact on environmental and consumer protections.
It will also open your local GP up to the threat of being sued by these same companies.
Only Labour has taken a firm stand on this agreement. But the results of last week’s European election results may have produced some strange allies.
Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, a member of Andy Burnham’s shadow Health team, has repeatedly raised concerns about the agreement [also known as the TTIP] and its impact on the NHS.
One recommendation from a recent review which she chaired was that we need to
‘ensure that privatisation of the NHS is prevented by exempting the NHS from EU/US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’
Andy Burnham has visited Brussels to express Labour’s fears about the developing agreement.
It is now Labour’s policy that the NHS should be exempt from the EU/US Trade Agreement.
So where do the chlorinated chickens come in?
You might well ask. European politics are little reported in the UK – so you could be forgiven if you missed the fact that opposition to the TTIP was a crucial plank of the French election campaign in the recent European elections.
The right-wing Front Nationale, for example, made it central.
Their objection was to the power which the agreement would transfer from national governments to multi-national companies:
‘it would allow world companies judicially to attack any collectivity or state which did not submit itself to total free trade.’
It’s not often we find ourselves agreeing with the Front Nationale!
Butt the TTIP was also opposed by the left-wing Front de Gauche and by the French Green party.
The Front de Gauche homed in on the implications of the agreement for consumer protection. Their election broadcast featured the problem of blocking US chickens, disinfected with chlorine bleach, if the agreement goes through.
‘Chorinated chickens’ speak to the French concern with pure, unadulterated food. But the consumer rights which are at stake here speak to us all. And the wider implications of the EU/US agreement matter to all of us.
Now we are not seriously suggesting an alliance between Andy Burnham and Marine Le Pen!!
But the recent European elections have certainly opened up an interesting new situation – and perhaps one in which the EU/US agreement will come under renewed scrutiny. We hope so.
If that happens, the only party ready and prepared is the Labour Party – with its declared commitment to NHS exemption.
‘While the Tories, LibDems and UKIP are silent, we are fighting for the health service to be protected from privatisation under the new EU-US trade treaty.’ [Andy Burnham]
Alas, really crucial questions like this were ignored by the UK media in the run-up to last Thursday’s elections.
How many people realised this was such an important issue?
Now the results are in, and we are where we are.
But don’t expect UKIP to follow their fellow right-wingers in the Front Nationale in opposing this one – UKIP are committed to NHS privatisation, and are dedicated free marketeers.
And don’t expect the Tory/LibDem Coalition to fight this corner either – their neo-liberal economic policy is entirely in line with the agreement.
Only Labour will go on fighting to protect the NHS – as it always has done and always will do.
Only Labour understands both the need to be in Europe, and the challenge of addressing and monitoring EU activity.
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