Recent campaigns set out concerns regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), particularly with regard to privatisation of the NHS and public services.
This is another area where there are two questions:
- Should Parliament be able to determine policy in this area?
- What should that policy be?
Because we are members of the European Union which is, amongst other things, a customs union, the Common Commercial Policy remains an exclusive EU competence as set out in the Lisbon Treaty.
That is, the UK cannot determine its own trade deals while it is in the EU on the present terms. Furthermore, European law takes precedence over the law set by Parliament as a consequence of our membership, so Parliament cannot overrule the EU.
We cannot determine our trade policy.
If we could determine our trade policy, I would demand global free trade, which is a crucial engine of prosperity: for more, see Prof Razeen Sally’s Trade Policy New Century.
There is uncertainty at EU level about whether TTIP is likely to be a made a ‘mixed competence’ agreement. If it contains elements that fall outside EU competence, it will be adopted at EU level and ratified by each EU Member State.
In the UK, a treaty that requires national ratification is presented to Parliament but Parliament cannot amend such a treaty in any way. Governments agree treaty texts through a process of negotiation but ratification is never an opportunity to change the text agreed beforehand.
Given the manner in which the constitutional Lisbon Treaty was ratified, I cannot imagine TTIP would be rejected.
The bottom line here is that if electors want Parliament to be able to set trade policy, we need to renegotiate our membership of the European Union or leave. That is why people should vote Conservative for a renegotiation followed by a referendum.
In the meantime, we are stuck with the EU as it is. I have shared my views about TTIP on camera which you can access on the 38 Degrees Vimeo channel.
There has been considerable misinformation regarding the impact of TTIP on the NHS. TTIP will not oblige the UK to open up publicly funded health services to private companies.
Indeed, anyone watching last Wednesday’s PMQs may have seen me next to Charlotte Leslie as she said,
Does he share my concern that the objective scrutiny role of the Select Committee system has been fundamentally undermined by Labour’s refusal even to discuss a draft report, having heard evidence of decreased administrative costs since the health reforms, privatisation slowing since 2005, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership not posing a threat to the NHS, no charges or top-ups introduced, and no plans to do so, and does he agree — [Interruption…] — that refusing even to discuss that flies in the face of our public—[Interruption.]
The Prime Minister replied:
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. That Select Committee report has been held back because Labour Members of Parliament do not want to tell the truth about our national health service; they are only interested in trying to weaponise it. The fact is that there are more doctors and more nurses and more operations are being carried out. That is the truth, and it is disgraceful that Labour is trying to cover it up, just as it did in office.
There is the truth: the NHS has been “weaponised” for partisan electoral advantage and propaganda about TTIP is part of that. It is a shameful state of affairs.
TTIP is a fine example of why I worked so hard throughout the Parliament to obtain a referendum on our EU membership. That is a crucial step in the restoration of our democracy. In the meantime, we will have to put up with whatever the EU delivers in TTIP but that is likely to be far better for the UK than many fear.