Monday 19 May 2014

Why don't UKIP oppose TTIP?

Ukippers love to imagine that their party are the brave and rebellious political outsiders standing up to the Westminster establishment, but the slightest effort to actually look at the detail reveals that they adhere to exactly the same right-wing Thatcherite economic ideology of neoliberalism as the Lib-Lab-Con establishment. What is more, they share the same economic ideology as the unelected technocrats in Europe they're always banging on about.

One of the most glaring indicators that UKIP is just another establishment party hawking defunct neoliberal economic dogma is their refusal to condemn the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the countries that make up the European Union. The TTIP "trade agreement" is a grave threat to the sovereignty of all the nations involved because it will create a new tier of highly secretive tribunals (National Sovereignty and Investor State Dispute Settlements) designed to allow multinational corporations to sue the nation states that have signed up to it.

TTIP is being negotiated right now, and if the multinational corporations that are behind it get their way, the EU technocrats will rubber stamp it before the end of 2014. If this so-called "trade deal" goes ahead then the UK government will be opened up to all kinds of secretive court cases brought by multinational corporations, with the massive fines to be paid by the UK taxpayer.

To give a hypothetical example, lets say that the UK government decides to introduce new environmental legislation, which prevents a multinational mining conglomerate from strip mining one of our national parks (or reduces the profitability of their mining operation). If the government intervenes like this, the corporation will be able to bypass the entire British judicial system and sue the UK government in a secretive tribunal for every penny that they claim the new legislation has cost them in profit.*

If TTIP is passed it will likely result in the complete destruction of what remains of the NHS because foreign multinational corporations could simply sue the UK in secretive tribunals if the government refuses to sell them all the profitable NHS services they want to cherry-pick.

It might seem incredible that UKIP have somehow forgotten to mention something as important as TTIP in their 2014 European Election "manifesto". But then in mitigation they did have to cut a fair bit out in order to make space in it for a two page "I'm voting UKIP" window poster - the biggest section in the whole (absolute joke of a) manifesto!

Neither the Lib-Lab-Con establishment**, nor UKIP have criticised TTIP, meaning that the only parties that are actually standing up against this corporate over-writing of our sovereignty are left-wing parties like the Green Party, the National Health Action Party and No2EU Yes to Democracy. So much for right-wing people wrapping themselves in the Union flag and declaring the left "unpatriotic" eh?

If you oppose the TTIP corporate power grab, then it might be more sensible to vote for political parties that are prepared to take a firm stance against it (and take practical steps to undermine it) rather than voting for a party that can't even bring itself to criticise it, and has the worst attendance record in European debates in the whole of the EU making them unlikely to do anything at all to oppose it.

Given that it represents such a grave threat to the national sovereignty of the UK, anyone with an enquiring mind must be wondering why UKIP have carefully avoided making any kind of criticism of this corporate power grab, why not a single UKIP MEP voted against it the last time it was debated in the European parliament, and why their economics spokesperson Roger Helmer even voted in favour of it.

The reason would seem to be that a "trade deal" designed to give multinational corporate interests primacy over democratically elected governments and the British justice system fits so nicely with the neoliberal ideology that UKIP adheres to. Just like the Lib-Lab-Con establishment that they posture as an alternative to, UKIP are all in favour of a "trade deal" designed to over-write our democracy, supersede our justice system, destroy the public sector and disempower the public in order to better serve the interests of multinational corporations.

TTIP is a corporate power grab of astonishing proportions, and the lack of transparency over the negotiations is deeply concerning, but UKIP hasn't uttered a word of criticism, in fact one UKIP parliamentary candidate described TTIP as something that "
benefits the whole of the EU – even if all the talks are held in secret" and described the announcement of a public consultation on TTIP as "an alarming turn for the worse", as if even the pretense of letting the public know what is being negotiated behind closed doors is some kind of nightmare scenario.

The hypocrisy of this stance is absolutely breathtaking - UKIP have built up a huge supporter base by posturing as a party that cares about British sovereignty, but when a huge threat to our national sovereignty is on the table, being negotiated by the very same unelected technocrats they are always banging on about, the UKIP leadership remain absolutely silent on the issue, and some of their political candidates even speak out in favour of it.

That UKIP cannot bring themselves to utter a word of opposition to TTIP, suggests that they are just a bunch of opportunists, using the language of sovereign independence to win votes, whilst doing nothing at all to oppose an undeniably huge threat to our national sovereignty.

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 * - Someone has written to me to complain that this hypothetical example is too melodramatic, but it is actually based on a real case in Peru, where the US corporation Doe Run has used the US-Peru "free trade" agreement to sue the Peruvian state for imposing environmental restrictions on the heavily polluted La Oroya smelting plant. You can read more about that case here.
** - Labour have sort of opposed bit of the TTIP, arguing for an excemption for the NHS. Some Labour MEPs have argued against the State Investor Dispute Tribunals too, but they haven't expressly criticised the whole deal, nor the unaccountable way that it is being negotiated.
UPDATE: Here's an excruciating video of the UKIP MEP William Legge telling the American ambassador that they must do more to sell TTIP to the public.

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