There can be no compromises on TTIP

Jude Kirton Darling's backroom deals are an example of why people feel they can't trust politicians


On Wednesday, Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling published a blog on Left Foot Forward defending her decision last week to compromise on a key vote about TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. She criticised 38 Degrees’ reaction to her decision. I’ll do my best to respond to her.

It’s important to start with a bit of background. 38 Degrees is member-led. Millions of ordinary people across the UK come together and campaign together on things that matter. One of those things is TTIP: you can see our most recent member poll results here to understand how much of a priority stopping TTIP is to 38 Degrees members.

The 38 Degrees TTIP campaign was chosen and shaped by members across the UK. It includes our opposition to any form of ISDS in TTIP. ISDS stands for the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism: the part of the deal that would let corporations sue our government if our laws dent their profits.

Similar mechanisms have been used in other countries to, for example, allow tobacco company Philip Morris to bring a lawsuit against Australia for introducing plain packaging, and a lawsuit against Uruguay for increasing the size of health warnings on cigarettes.

38 Degrees members have overwhelmingly said they do not want ISDS in the deal. Labour MEPs – including Jude Kirton-Darling – have agreed with that.

Last week’s vote, and the vote next week, are rare opportunities to throw sunlight on the deal. TTIP has been negotiated in secret, locked away from the democratic process for too long. These votes allow the EU Commission to see what the people of Europe will – and won’t – tolerate.

Labour MEPs gave assurances to their constituents that they would vote against ISDS. Jude Kirton-Darling even said that ‘EU citizens will not accept MEPs to compromise on ISDS’. And then, behind closed doors, they made a compromise.

That compromise told the European Commission that the people of Europe would tolerate ISDS.

Jude talks about the importance of the compromise. But most people expect decent politicians to vote with their principles and stick to their promises, not make last-minute backroom deals.

She complains that the European Parliament, and MEPs like her, don’t have enough power over TTIP. That’s absolutely right. So Jude can probably imagine just how disempowered ordinary people – with less influence than her – feel about this deal. As an MEP, she has a rare chance to affect the European Parliament’s official position on TTIP.

And she rightly says that it will be a long time before MEPs get their final vote on TTIP. So imagine a scenario where Jude and her colleagues hadn’t compromised on ISDS. She and her colleagues could have shown the European Commission that the Labour Party and the S&D group will not pass a TTIP with ISDS in it. They could have spent the next couple of years lobbying others to join them.

Given all that, it’s legitimate to ask why they chose to compromise now.

Jude accuses the 38 Degrees campaign of reducing ‘political values and ideals to a binary opposition of right and wrong.’ Yes, it’s easy to hide behind complexity. Yes, TTIP is complicated, and so is the European Parliament. But I think in this case there was a right, and there was a wrong. And most 38 Degrees members feel that Jude did the wrong thing.

I can understand that Jude feels wounded by this, after the work she has done up until now working against ISDS. But making a compromise that is against what you say you stand for – and then criticising those who call you out on it – is exactly why many people feel alienated from politicians.

Jude has said that she will vote against ISDS if she has the chance to next week, though her voters would be entitled to wonder whether she will compromise on this too. And if Jude does stand by her principles next week, she can be in no doubt that 38 Degrees members will applaud her for it.

Blanche Jones  is campaigns director at 38 Degrees. Follow her on Twitter

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16 Responses to “There can be no compromises on TTIP”

  1. Ed Kirton-Darling

    You don’t answer Jude’s central point, that if she had not voted for the report, it would not have got out of committee and there would have been no EP vote on it at all. Jude has expressed her opposition to ISDS throughout – and has made it clear that voting for the report was not a vote for ISDS – so why does it follow that when it comes to an EP vote (which, I reiterate, is only happening because the committee voted for it to go forward to the whole EP and which would not have happened if the S&D members had voted against it) do you think she would vote for it?

  2. Meghan Nova

    It is essential to make negotiations fully transparent.

  3. AlanGiles

    There are far too many “deals” done in private behind closed doors – and the EU is the epitome of this lack of transparency

  4. Polly

    The person who wrote this article doesn’t understand where Jude is coming from, or the process, at all. Without the vote to take it forward to plenary session in parliament that all MEPs can vote on, the Commission could have done whatever they wanted with TTIP (including on ISDS) without the whole parliament having a say – so that would be less democratic and less transparent. Now the whole parliament has a chance to vote on it – which is why Jude voted to take it into a plenary!

  5. John

    I’m sorry but I’m with Jude on this one. As a long term supporter of 38
    Degrees, I was very disappointed to see the action against her, which
    equated the work of the S&D group MEPs to oppose not just ISDS but
    also the other problems in TTIP with the direct support of the
    conservatives and liberals. Jude has tabled an anti-ISDS amendment for the plenary, enabling ISDS to be discussed openly there in the terms she wants, whilst getting the strongest opening statement she could negotiate past a neo-liberal dominated INTA committee.

  6. steroflex

    Blanche, the problem is not negotiating with the Americans.

    The problem is not whether or not nurses are getting a rough deal.

    The problem is the EU itself which always works in secret, always fixes things in private and is run by a Commission – people who are not elected, not accountable and not known. Do you, for instance, know which Commissioner is involved in this? Or his/her name?

    Poor old Jude. She is a member of a country which is exactly 1/28th of the EU. In the parliament she has virtually no chance of speaking. And what the parliament actually discusses and for how long, depends on – the Commission. She has no influence whatsoever.

    Why on earth Labour is in favour of staying in this secret, anti worker organisation is beyond me. Perhaps you can help?

  7. CGR101

    TTIP is a disaster for the national governments of the EU and the people they are supposed to represent. It will give global corporations uncontrollable legal powers over government decisions.

    It is going to happen. The anti-democratic forces of the EU will demand it and force it through without Treaty change or any democratic mandate.

    The only real and effective way to avoid TTIP is to support an OUT vote in the referendum.

  8. Godfrey Paul

    The FIFA of international politics !

  9. Keith M

    Kirsten-Darling not fit to be an MEP. Yet another with snout in trough.

  10. Caroline Molloy

    Most effective thing people can do now is get behind amendment 27 which rules out ISDS, and not accept the dodgy compromise amendments offered by David Martin and other Labour MEPs. Some of the better Labour MEPs (including Jude) have already signed, along with Greens and others. You can see the list, and how to find and contact your MEP, here. There’s not long – vote on Tues. Let’s not waste time infighting but get behind the better MEPs who are clearly struggling with some of their more reactionary colleagues, including some in Labour.

  11. CauliflowerEars

    Trade can create benefits and jobs, but as a 3 time entrepreneur and a
    former business strategy Masters lecturer I can say with all sincerity
    the economic benefits of TTIP are highly dubious at best. It is a
    corporate wishlist and in the main it will only benefit large
    corporations. Small and Medium sized business will have winners and
    losers, but the net effect could just as easily be negative as positive.
    Give the historical results of other similar trade agreements it is
    more likely that the effects for small businesses will be negative.
    Small business are the medium and large businesses of the future. So
    once again we could be selling our future for Wall Street to make a
    quick buck now. In light of this reality the “TTIP is happening whether
    we like it or not” attitude is ill informed and negligent. The
    compromises that were made to accommodate the dysfunctional workings of
    Brussells only make any sense if you think TTIP is basically a good idea
    if only we can work out the “kinks”. The truth is it is fundamentally
    flawed on all levels, not least the secret process of its creation. In
    my view it should be opposed on moral grounds, not as “grandstanding”,
    but simply because it should be opposed on moral grounds! Yes, there is a
    right and wrong way to vote on this!

  12. Maria Livings

    Jude Kirton Darling is about as far as you can get from a self-serving individual with her snout in the trough. She’s in there at the cutting edge working to protect our services and rights.

  13. Maria Livings

    It’s almost as if 38 degrees knows it made a mistake in ‘naming and shaming’ Jude Kirton Darling and is desperately casting around for a reason to justify their position. The details of TTIP and ISDS are complex , as are the ways that the S & D group are trying to ameliorate the effects on our services and rights, however 38 degrees needs to admit when they’ve got it wrong/misunderstood the situation.

  14. Nick McBain

    I appreciate the Immense Hard Work put in by Jude Kirton-Darling on this issue, and on many other issues for the North East and UK-wide.
    However nuanced tactical compromise and positioneering, to keep hands on the processes of power, doesn’t appeal to voters (please don’t imply from this that voters are ‘dim’ – Milliband did enough of that in May).
    IMHO I’m not sure these tactics make an impact in practice either: it probably lost Labour seats in the recent election campaign, and it sure as hell lost them Scotland.


    You are a comedian… the purpose f the agreement is to be secret. If you run the corporate world that is about to get power over the states, would you make it “transparent”?


    It gives corporations powers over the states. Corporations can sue governments and win large judgments. In short, it is Corporate Fascism on steroids.

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