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TTIP Opt Out Needed To Save NHS

Thursday, July 4, 2013

UK Must Secure Opt Out From Disputes Mechanism In New EU/US Trade Talks Starting On Monday 8th July To Safeguard National Sovereignty

This mechanism takes away the ability of member states to decide what sectors like the NHS should stay in the public sector and hands power to unaccountable tax avoiding corporations says GMB.

GMB is calling for the UK to secure an opt-out from the disputes mechanism which may form part of a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States.

GMB is seeking an opt-out for the UK when negotiations begin in Washington next Monday 8th July if the Investor-State Disputes Settlement mechanism is included in the TTIP.

GMB want this opt out from this mechanism because it effectively take away the ability of sovereign member states to decide what sectors like the NHS should be part of the public sector. Under it private companies to sue governments for damages for social and economic decisions they do not like does not like.

The ISDS machinery was ostensibly designed to depoliticise investment disputes and create a forum that offered investors a fair hearing before a supposedly independent, neutral and qualified tribunal. This mechanism is included in previous US free trade agreements and bilateral trade agreements, notably the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, said “The legitimacy of the unaccountable Investor-State Disputes Settlement mechanism has repeatedly been called into question.

This is because it takes away the ability of member states to decide what sectors like the NHS should stay in the public sector and hands power to unelected and unaccountable corporations.

We know from the tax avoidance scandals what these corporations do when given free reign.

Foreign investors have used it extensively to challenge measures adopted by sovereign states to promote social equity, foster environmental protection or protect public health.

Countries who are signed up to this mechanism have face claims up to £70 billion and awards up to £1 billion.

In addition, proceedings are usually conducted in secret and arbitrated by a relatively small group of unaccountable specialist lawyers whose impartiality has been called into question.

If the Investor-State Disputes Settlement mechanism in included in TTIP it is conceivable that a giant American health insurance corporation could insist that it be allowed to buy up services currently provided by the NHS. If it is prevented from doing so it could sue the sovereign UK Government for damages. The UK would be bound to accept the decision of a group of trade lawyers based in New York.

David Cameron is fond of wrapping himself in the Union flag and complaining that British sovereignty is being compromised by decisions taken on our behalf by the EU.

GMB want to see him demanding an opt-out for the UK if the mechanism is included in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

GMB cannot support a treaty that will allow the future of the NHS to be decided outside the UK by a bunch of unelected, unaccountable lawyers in New York. “


Contact: Bert Schouwenburg 07974 251 764, Kathleen Walker Shaw 07841 181 549, GMB press office 07924 289 880 or 07974 251 823

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