Over the fence
SO Europe, in or out? By 2018, we will have voted in the EU referendum. Loss of sovereignty to Brussels is a major factor for those who want to cut the cord.
If you are concerned about decisions taken beyond our borders, imagine a world in which international companies could change our laws, reduce food regulatory standards and subjugate all considerations to the global market.
Think of the implications; big business vetoing national governments, market imperatives overriding health protection measures, regulation being downgraded. Now google search ‘TTIP’. TTIP, or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, describes ongoing EU/US trade negotiations. A key aim of TTIP is to reduce or remove tariffs (taxes on imports) between the EU and US.
A second is to reduce regulatory barriers to trade, or get rid of them altogether.
For example, where countries have different rules governing the use of, say, chemicals in pesticides, one with a more liberal regime might struggle to export to another, more tightly regulated state.
Reduce differences in regulation and, the argument goes, the global market benefits. Problem is, this may reduce protection in the country with higher standards, to the detriment of its population’s health and its environment.
Many types of regulation in the US are set at a lower level than in the EU – so if as a result of TTIP the EU aligns its standards with the US, we might adopt a lower level of food regulation. In the US 70% of processed foods contain GM ingredients. Currently, genetically modified foods are practically prohibited in the EU.
TTIP will also create a right to sue governments for loss of profit caused by a regulatory regime. So big business will be able to sue democratically elected national governments over, for example, clean air legislation, food standards or environmental protection which they assert constitute a barrier to trade. Not only sue, but force them to change or relax such regulatory provisions.
These actions will not be taken in national courts, but in arbitration tribunals not open to the public. Maybe the most important question is – who do we want in charge? Do we want our democratically elected national governments to write our laws, together with the EU’s legislative body, or would we rather see global companies with a completely different agenda, do so?