Brexit would weaken the campaign against toxic trade deals like TTIP

The UK government has been a leading proponent of TTIP. That wouldn't change if we left Europe.

Image: Jakob Huber/Campact

The recent TTIP Leaks have proven what many of us have argued for several years: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is less a trade treaty; more a corporate power grab.

This free trade agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and US aims to remove trade barriers and tariffs, ‘unnecessary’ regulations, and restrictions on investment. But with tariffs between the EU and the US already low or non-existent, it is becoming clear that the agreement will focus mainly on removing or changing regulations and standards in Europe for the benefit of corporations rather than in the public interest.

The leaked documents reveal, for example, that the US is demanding the watering down of EU food safety standards and the lifting of a ban on GM foods. This could have a big impact on farmers in my own South West constituency as they would face unfair competition from cheap, intensively produced American meat and dairy coming onto the market.

There is very little ‘partnership’ about this process; the US is seeking access to European markets on entirely its own terms and the result would be a race to the bottom on environmental and social standards.

The Leave campaign have been quick to exploit Green criticism of TTIP as a reason to leave the EU. They are either being incredibly naive, or simply clutching at straws.

Cameron’s government has been a cheerleader for TTIP since its inception, and the UK government have already been striking damaging trade deals with countries such as Colombia and Ethiopia. The idea that we would leave the EU and suddenly forget about free trade deals that favour business over democratic institutions is ridiculous.

Indeed, some of the big players in the Leave camp have been gung-ho about both free trade and TTIP. Boris Johnston has declared that ‘There is absolutely nothing not to like about TTIP’.

It’s also important to note that if we left and adopted the Norwegian approach of joining the European Economic Area (EEA), not only would we still be contributing to the EU budget, we’d also be subject to any changes in legislation that could result from a TTIP agreement. But crucially, we would not be able to take part in the TTIP negotiations. It is also clear the Leave campaign haven’t a clue what kind of trading relationship they want with the EU post Brexit.

The latest leaks also showr that the fight against TTIP is not lost. They reveal the scale of the differences between what the US and EU want from the deal which means one thing is certain – it will not be concluded any time soon.

In the European Parliament, the 50-strong Greens-EFA group of MEPs continue to champion the will of the people: over three and a half million Europeans, including many thousands in the UK, have signed a European Citizens Initiative on the trade deal, and public opposition continues to grow on both sides of the Atlantic.

Our collective pressure has already watered down the controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which would enable corporations to sue states for any policy changes or actions that could potentially damage their profits.

Greens believe that we need to remain in the EU so we can defeat TTIP together. This toxic treaty cannot be pushed through without the agreement of the European Parliament or all 28 EU members. France has already signalled it will reject the deal. There is also huge momentum to stop TTIP and UK campaigners have played a vital role in the campaign against TTIP. Leaving the EU would only weaken these efforts.

The rise of scepticism in cagey free trade agreements, on two of the largest consumer continents, shows that we are best placed to push a progressive agenda, focused on creating a social Europe, from within.

Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the South West of England

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