I posted on the subject of the TTIP a little while ago, trying to explain why this is such a dangerous treaty in the making.
Because I am concerned about this issue, I wrote to the people who are standing to be elected as Members of the European Parliament for the London Constituency in May 2014.
I wrote to all candidates for whom I could find an e-mail address; this is easy with sitting MEPs; for the others, different parties have different approaches to publicising contact details, and on the whole, I had to write to the generic address of the party’s London office.
(NB: all the e-mail texts are inserted as screen shots; if you click or double click on them you will be able to see them in a larger and therefore readable version)
The text of my e-mail was as follows:
And here are their responses in so far as I got them in the order in which they arrived.
Jonathan Fryer. He is standing for election for the Liberal Democrats.
The link in the e-mail takes you to an article in EurActiv which reports on a report on Investor-State Disputes which are already taking place under other agreements; this report was published by Corporate Europe Observatory, a very reputable NGO working on this (and many other) subjects.
Overall, the response was quite re-assuring.
But in a response to a similar enquiry to another voter, he responded as follows:
Call me cynical, but this sounds less reassuring to me.
Marina Yannakoudakis, MEP. She is a sitting MEP and is standing for re-election. She is a member of the Conservative Party.
There are a number of points to highlight:
- There is a clear commitment made on behalf of the Conservative Party in the European Parliament to support the inclusion of the ISDS mechanism; so don’t be surprised if they actually agree to it.
- She suggests that IDSD is a protection against illegal expropriation only; that is clearly not the case.
- She makes many of the same points which the Commission makes in its consultation about the ‘EU and its Member States [needing to] remain able to adopt and enforce in accordance with their own and EU laws measures necessary to pursue legitimate public policy objectives in the fields of social and environmental standards, security, the stability of the financial system, and public health and safety.’ But it is precisely this ability to pursue such public policy objectives, which is under threat.
Jean Lambert, MEP. She is a sitting MEP and standing for re-election. She is a member of the Green Party.
The response, from Jean Lambert’s office, reads as follows:
Indeed, the document referred to in this response is a detailed analysis of the problems with this proposed agreement and goes far wider in its critique than just the ISDS, although this is also an area the Green Party is against.
Here is a party that will stand for public policy concerns and will defend our right to protect the common good.
Sarah Ludford, MEP. She is a sitting MEP and standing for re-election. She is a member of the Liberal Democrats.
Her response was quite long and detailed. This is reflected in the two screen shots below which show the entire e-mail I received.
What is interesting is that she very clearly supports the TTIP and defends the ISDS. Given the response(s) from Jonathan Fryer, who might well be sitting alongside her in the European Parliament in the same party, which of them is more likely to prevail? And of course, the Liberal Democrat Party has a whip; so if the group decides to support the deal, members of the group will have to follow suit.
Caroline Allen. She is standing for election and is a member of the Green Party
Caroline Allen’s office responded as follows:
The her blog post (link in e-mail) sets out the Green Party policy on this issue and makes it clear that the Green MEPs will do whatever is in their power to protect the interests of citizens.
Claude Moraes, MEP. He is a sitting MEP and standing for re-election. He is a member of the Labour Party.
No substantive response has been forthcoming from Mr. Moraes. What is office said was this:
Mary Honeyball, MEP. She is a sitting MEP and standing for re-election. She is a member of the Labour Party
Ms Honeyball’s office responded initially by asking me to confirm my postal address so they could be sure I was a constituent. Eventually, I did get a substantive response:
This, too, is very long.
There are a number of interesting points to note: one is, that the Labour Party is receiving a lot of letters on this subject. This is cause for celebration. Citizens are watching what is going on.
Secondly, there seems to be a clear steer in this response that the Labour MEPs are going to try to get the ISDS clause removed from this agreement. So that is good news.
In response to a slightly different question on the TTIP, Mary Honeyball’s office wrote to another voter:
So these are the responses I (and a couple of other people) got from some – though not all – of the candidates.
It tells us quite a lot. There are some who are definitely going to go for the corporate will – big business triumphs. There are some parties where the picture is not so clear. The Labour party seems to have got it but the responses are still hedged.
UKIP didn’t respond at all. I had reservations even writing to them but thought, no, in a democracy we have to listen to all voices. But clearly, they don’t think voters matter.
But there is one party that is quite clear: the TTIP as it stands is a threat to our democracy; it is a threat to our public interest legislation and regulation; it is a threat to public services.
No amount of reassurance from the European Commission or from our own government that it’s all in our best interests and that it will bring growth and jobs can take away the facts: if you give foreign companies (and these are generally the big multi-nationals) the right to sue governments in unaccountable tribunals then you are giving up a large chunk of the right to regulate.
We know who is standing up for our interests; we know who is protecting the common good.
Voting for Green MEPs in this European Election will help to safeguard a hundred years of enlightened public policy and will allow more improvements to be made to the protection of public services, the environment, consumers, health and safety and workers. We’d be fools to give it up.