Much like the NHS issue, many local people have raised concerns with me about the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal. TTIP is a very complex proposal that if put in place will have wide reaching consequences for the people of the UK. It is vital that we have a thorough, public debate on this issue and I am pleased that it has finally started to be dragged out of the dark, hidden backrooms of Brussels.
Whilst the party have not yet publicly announced our stance on TTIP, UKIP have formally committed ourselves to, at the very least, securing an exemption from the agreement for the NHS.
Whilst signing trade agreements with countries around the world is key to UKIP policy, aside from the well publicised potential impact it could have on the NHS, I have many concerns about this proposed agreement. These concerns include the secretive, hidden manner in which it has been negotiated by faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats and also the proposed right for multinational corporations to sue national governments.
Most worryingly of all about this proposal is that it seems that the EU are not taking concerns with TTIP seriously and plan to plough along with the plan regardless of UK concerns that are being very widely raised.
I support the idea of a free trade agreement between the UK and the US. Such an agreement could potentially be very positive for both nations, but to work it would have to be very carefully crafted and it would need a full and fair public debate before it was signed. This would need to be a deal specifically and carefully tailored to be in the best interests of the people of the United Kingdom.
We now have seen a leaked draft proposal of the agreement (from the European Union) and this leak confirmed many of my fears. It also confirmed that the NHS could well be severely impacted by the agreement – UKIP have already publically committing to, securing an exclusion for the NHS in TTIP.
It is important to remember than this is just a proposed draft of the deal (from an EU perspective.) once this proposal had been opened to US negotiation, if they don’t reject it outright, they will demand many changes to suit their own agenda. If the best case EU proposals don’t suit the UK, what is the US approved version going to look like?
Oh Tuesday the 24th of March, I had the privilege of voting on TTIP. Although I am not a member of the relevant committee (IMCO), I volunteered to take the place of another MEP who was unable to attend on that day. Naturally, I voted to support the exemption for the NHS and other public services from TTIP; this motion was carried. I also voted against the Investor-State Dispute Settlement, but sadly was outvoted by 22-17. Given the result of that vote, when we came to vote on the whole draft opinion, which supported TTIP, I felt therefore that I had to vote against. This vote was also lost, by 20-18 with one abstention.
Whilst UKIP do not yet have an official stance on the issue, I have long held many deep concerns about TTIP. The recent leaked proposal has not assuaged these concerns and whilst I am not able give a definitive answer until I see the final document, if the recently leaked draft or the proposals I recently discussed in committee come before the European Parliament, I would vote against it.