Molly Scott-Cato cached version 08/02/2019 17:10:11 en Brexit: an economic strategy from the left? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If we are agreed that the UK economy needs an overhaul from the Left, where does Brexit come in? Interview with Green MEP Molly Scott Cato.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Will Brexit give the public more power to scrutinise secretive international trade deals like TTIP? Wikimedia. CC.</span></span></span>From state aid rules and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), to VAT on women’s sanitary products, a range of arguments have been presented as reasons for why Brexit can help the UK left.</p><p>Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West and member of the Panama Papers Committee of Inquiry, explains where the UK fits in with progressive tax and industrial strategy at EU level, and the chances of a socialist reboot of a UK economy risking Brexit downturn.</p> <p><strong><em>Julian Sayarer:</em> </strong><em>Would Brexit better enable the UK to make unilateral moves on, for example, initiatives like a Financial Transaction Tax?</em></p> <p><strong>Molly Scott Cato:</strong> The UK has consistently blocked progressive measures on tax in Europe. Whilst the Financial Transaction Tax is an EU initiative (under the voluntary process of enhanced cooperation), there has never been anything to prevent the UK implementing such a tax unilaterally. France and Germany have led efforts to create and implement this tax but the UK has been one of the countries seeking to sabotage it in Europe. </p><p>It is far more likely that post-Brexit a Tory government will seek to turn the UK into a tax haven, undercutting tax rates in Europe in a desperate attempt to lure corporations to the UK. A Labour government, desperate to secure jobs and growth, might also be tempted to lure business through low taxes.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><em>JS: </em></strong><em>Does Brexit help protect the UK from the effects of sweeping corporate and legal changes embodied in deals including TTIP?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC: </strong>It was in no small part thanks to massive opposition from civil society across Europe, including many campaign groups in the UK, that TTIP fell. Greens in the European Parliament spearheaded political opposition against TTIP. They have done so against CETA too – the trade deal between Canada and the EU. Yet Labour barely squeaked as this dodgy trade deal passed through without any parliamentary debate.</p> <p>The neoliberal impulse is stronger under WTO rules – which is where the UK is heading without a deal with the EU. The EU has the highest standards on environmental and social issues; standards which are unlikely to survive Brexit. Liam Fox is already negotiating new trade deals, in secret, with himself as <a href="">the only member of the Board of Trade</a>. And the best he is aspiring to is cutting and pasting existing EU deals. So, we will get the same intention but worse in practice because we are a weaker market and so have less negotiating clout.</p> <p><strong><em>JS: </em></strong><em>EU laws concerning VAT presented an obstacle to zero-rating women's sanitary products. Could Brexit simplify such changes in future?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC:</strong> This is a typical example of blaming the EU when it is muddled policy making back home that is really to blame. When Britain first joined the European Economic Community in 1973, under a Conservative government, it agreed to VAT on sanitary products being 17.5%. Following political pressure on the Treasury in the form of Early Day Motions from Labour MP Chris McCafferty and taken up by fellow Labour MP Dawn Primarolo in 2000, it was eventually reduced to 5%. </p><p>When the VAT Directive was last negotiated in Brussels in 1991, the UK Tory government, asked for a long list of exemptions – including pistachio nuts, Bingo games and razors, but mysteriously, <a href="">not sanitary products</a>. Since then, and ahead of the EU referendum, George Osborne <a href="">struck a deal</a> with EU tax commissioner Moscovici that the UK would have flexibility on this issue.</p><p> Moscovici confirmed to me recently that there will be more subsidiarity and national flexibility in the new VAT package he is launching this autumn and it will provide EU members states the option of VAT zero rating for sanitary products. &nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Molly Scott Cato MEP has played a key role in fighting the tampon tax- but is it really imposed by the EU? Flickr/MollyMEP. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong><em>JS: </em></strong><em>To what extent are EU state aid rules an obstacle to Labour's vision of industrial policy?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC:</strong> The Labour leadership just needs to listen to leading law experts on the matter. Indeed, former adviser to Labour’s shadow Europe ministers, Andy Tarrant co-wrote a report <a href="">dispelling such claims</a>.</p> <p>They conducted a legal assessment of 26 of Labour’s economic proposals and found that the effect of EU or Single Market membership to be negligible.</p> <p>In addition, Brexit would not provide an optout from state aid rules anyway, as the World Trade Organisation imposes similar limits on subsidies members can pay to domestic industries.</p> <p>The UK would have to more than triple the amount it spends on state aid to even match the proportion of GDP which Germany spends on subsidising its public companies. And it is worth reminding Labour that French railways and German municipal energy are examples of exactly what Labour wants to do in terms of public ownership.</p> <p>A far greater threat to Labour’s plans would come from a ‘cliff edge’ Brexit: leaving the single market and customs union would trigger an economic recession which would drastically reduce tax revenue and so prevent Labour in government carrying out their economic stimulus policies.&nbsp; </p> <p>The EU is categorically <a href="">not an obstacle</a> to Labour’s industrial policy. </p> <p><strong><em>JS: </em></strong><em>What are your main fears, and do you have any optimism, for the UK left making gains in the fallout of Brexit?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC:</strong> The hard Brexit being driven by extremist Tories is nothing less than a soft coup. Behind the myth of taking back control is the reality of a power shift away from Parliament and towards Ministers. This deliberate undermining of democracy is one of the most worrying aspects of Brexit. </p> <p>But when we look to Labour for a clear and strong alternative we find a party as terminally divided on Brexit as the Conservatives. Labour cannot claim to be a government in waiting when they won't even provide opposition on the dominant political issue of the day. Indeed, at their conference, the ‘Lexit’ wing of the Party was prepared to block a debate on Brexit. </p><p>Critically, the Left seemed to have failed to grasp that the economic damage that Brexit will do will make all their dreams of a better future for Britain and for Britain's working people turn to dust. </p><p>There is one simple message for Labour on Brexit: you can’t be anti-austerity and pro-Brexit. Their ‘cake and eat it’ approach – believing we can secure a bespoke deal between the UK and the EU – will fail to materialise and this will be their undoing. </p> <p>My hope remains that the historic mistake to leave the EU can be reversed through a ratification referendum on the final deal – or indeed no deal. </p><p>Greens will campaign to remain in the EU in such a referendum; a vote that will allow people themselves to democratically end this damaging and dangerous chapter in our county’s history.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This article has been commissioned as part of our “<a href="">Looking at Lexit</a>” series, investigating the possibilities and limitations of leaving the EU. We would welcome further contributions on freedom of movement: please get in touch via Twitter (@juliansayerer or @xjb20).</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/looking-at-lexit/julian-sayarer/eu-freedom-of-movement-gateway-drug">EU Freedom of Movement - A gateway drug</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/looking-at-lexit/xavier-buxton/eu-freedom-of-movement-is-it-really-worth-fighting-for">EU Freedom of Movement: Is it really worth fighting for?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? UK CEMI brexit box Looking at Lexit Brexit Julian Sayarer Molly Scott-Cato Tue, 31 Oct 2017 14:40:57 +0000 Molly Scott-Cato and Julian Sayarer 114373 at If the hard Brexiteers have nothing to hide, they've nothing to fear <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Molly Scott Cato MEP explains why she has teamed up with the Good Law Project to force the government to lift the veil of secrecy on its Brexit impact reports - through action in the high court, if necessary.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for South West England</em></p><p class="Body">We have heard more talk about democracy in the past year than in my whole lifetime and frankly most of it is nonsense on stilts. Democracy is about making choices between real possible futures. The referendum wasn't that. Instead it was an invitation to bundle up all your frustrations and disappointments and hurl them at ‘Brussels’.</p> <p class="Body">Many of us were deeply disappointed by the EU referendum campaign. The Remain side grossly exaggerated the immediate economic hit from a Leave vote - rather than the process of leaving the EU - making it easy for Brexiteers to parody their case as Project Fear. On the Leave side there were innuendoes, false facts, and unachievable promises.</p> <p class="Body">Democratic decision-making is a process, not a snapshot of opinion in time. As negotiations begin, the lies unravel, and <a href="">the economic impact becomes clear</a>, we must keep the debate going. Brexit hasn't yet happened. We can still stop it if that is what the majority want. To change their view – or not – people need to have the best possible information about what the potential impacts of Brexit will be.</p> <p class="Body">This is where the secret Brexit studies come in. Back in April there were several leaks that made it clear DExEU had detailed information about the consequences of Brexit that they were not making public.</p> <p class="Body">I wrote to David Davis asking him to let me have this vital information so I could reassure my constituents and effectively continue to do my job as an MEP. A response from DExEU <a href="">confirmed</a> that analysis had been carried out in 50 sectors of the economy but no reason was offered as to why these studies were not being made available. Just reassurances that ministers had “travelled up and down the country to listen to the hopes and concerns of businesses, civil society and the general public”.</p> <p class="Body">I pushed again. I received a <a href="">response</a> from Steve Baker MP, Undersecretary of State for exiting the EU. This time there were clues as to which sectors the government has analysed. These include financial services, agriculture, energy, retail, infrastructure and transport. But Baker said it would be “inappropriate to publish analysis that would risk damaging the UK’s negotiating position”.</p> <p class="Body">So I made a Freedom of Information request for details of <a href="">a leaked study undertaken by the Department of Health</a> into the impacts of Brexit on the NHS. This suggested that the UK could be short of 40,000 nurses by 2026. This request was <a href="">refused</a> on the grounds that the information “might prejudice international relationships, the UK economy and the policy development process.”</p> <p class="Body">All my attempts, and the attempts of many others, to get this information into the public domain has met with the stock response: that to do so would damage our negotiating position in Brussels. This can only suggest that the impacts revealed are as bad as many of us have feared. But if it is encouraging news, then our businesses need the chance to prepare to make the best of the amazing Brexit opportunities.</p> <p class="Body">So I have now teamed up with <a href="" target="_blank">The Good Law Project</a> to demand the government release the studies within 14 days <a href="">or face judicial review proceedings</a> before the High Court. We believe there is a clear legal and principled case to say that these studies should not be hidden from public view.</p> <p class="Body">I was proud to announce our policy of holding a <a href="">ratification referendum</a> during the general election campaign. And that remaining in the EU should be an option in this referendum. There is nothing undemocratic about this. We are asking for more democracy, not less. We are asking for a democratic choice between two real, possible futures at the end of the negotiations: the deal – or remaining a member of the EU. It is the Brextremists, fighting tooth and nail against the ratification referendum, who are the anti-democrats. They are terrified that the British people will next time round be armed with the full facts and have a much clearer idea of two alternative futures.</p> <p class="Body">Does Boris Johnson believe in democracy? The man who touted for votes on the basis of the biggest lie in the history of British politics?</p> <p class="Body">Does Iain Duncan Smith believe in democracy? The man who has since claimed that, <a href="">for the Leave side, “our promises were a range of possibilities”?</a></p> <p class="Body">Does Steve Baker believe in democracy? The man who <a href="">received funding from the secretive Constitutional Research Council that gave the DUP more than £425,000 for its Brexit campaign</a>? Baker is now minister in the Brexit department - the very same man who is now refusing to release the secret Brexit studies that reveal the potential impacts of Brexit.</p> <p class="Body">And what of Dan Hannan? Does he believe in democracy? The man who famously said ahead of the referendum that “absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market”. This is the same Hannan who was the founder of the European Research Group (ERG), a group of Tory hardliners advocating a hard Brexit including full withdrawal from - you guessed it - the Single Market.</p> <p class="Body">The hard Brexit being driven by extremist Tories is nothing less than a soft coup. The <a href="">stories</a> published by OpenDemocracy are beginning to reveal the <a href="">murky alliance</a> between Putin, the <a href="">DUP</a>, Bannon and others who created the deceitful propaganda that persuaded a traditionally prudent country to vote for its own demise. Behind the myth of taking back control was the reality of a power shift away from Parliament and to Ministers. To restore democracy we must have the information those ministers have about what Brexit really means for our economy, our health service and all our lives.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/pro-union-donors-deny-brexit-dark-money-involvement">Mystery deepens over secret source of Brexit &#039;dark money&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk EU UK World Forum for Democracy 2017 Brexit Molly Scott-Cato Wed, 18 Oct 2017 16:58:20 +0000 Molly Scott-Cato 114106 at Liam Fox and the worst secret trade stitch up you've never heard of <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The EU/US 'TTIP trade deal' is dead - but another deal that will do similar damage to our public services and protections is almost in place already. And the socialists are split...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. Rights: Chatham House</em></p><p><span><span><span>Lifting our last remaining restrictions on privatisation. Secret corporate courts. Y</span></span></span><span><span><span>ou </span></span></span><span><span><span>can </span></span></span><span><span><span>see why Greens have always characterised </span></span></span><span><span><span>deals like TTIP and CETA</span></span></span><span><span><span> as less of a ‘</span></span></span><span><span><span>t</span></span></span><span><span><span>rade treaty’ and more of a corporate power grab.</span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>The irony that I am writing this post for Open Democracy is not lost on me. Trade treaties in general, and CETA - the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement - in particular are a classic case of decisions being made behind closed doors and with information being withheld even from elected members of Parliament. </span></span></span> </p><p> <span><span><span>The election of Trump and the UK vote to leave the EU has blown a massive whole in conventional trade policy. </span></span></span> </p><p><span><span><span>But what an irony faces those on the Left who voted to leave the EU </span></span></span><span><span><span><em>because</em></span></span></span><span><span><span> of TTIP and now find they are fast-tracked into a very similar</span></span></span><span><span><span> </span></span></span><span><span><span>treaty kindly offered by Trump, </span></span></span><span><span><span>even as TTIP dies! </span></span></span> </p><p><span><span><span>(</span></span></span><span><span><span>Cecilia Malmstrom, the Trade Commissioner, admitted before Christmas that </span></span></span><span><span><span>TTIP is</span></span></span><span><span><span> ‘pining for the fjords’!</span></span></span><span><span><span>)</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>For a more detailed glimpse into what the future of the UK’s trading relations (and the style of their negotiation) could look like, check out the nearly finalised CETA (the EU/Canadian ‘trade’ deal). Liam Fox has quietly decided, without proper parliamentary scrutiny or any debate in parliament, that this deal will apply to us <em>regardless</em> of Brexit. Fox did manage to apologise to a disgruntled parliamentary committee for the ‘scrutiny override’, <a href="" target="_blank"><span>claiming</span></a><span><span><span> </span></span></span>he had been befuddled by the ‘jobs, investment and prosperity’ the Treaty would (not) create. </span></span></span> </p><p> <span><span><span>So much for taking back control. </span></span></span> </p><p> <span><span><span>Instead we’ve been quietly and undemocratically saddled with a deal which jeopardises many of our hard-won protections – health, environmental, workers rights – not to mention our public services.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span><span>Perhaps most damagingly, CETA includes a proposal for an Investment Court System - a minor revision of the proposal for private, corporate courts that were the downfall of the TTIP treaty.&nbsp;</span></span></span><span><span><span><span>It is clear that the arbitration courts for investors are not only undemocratic, they are also incompatible with European standards for a fair justice system. We need to end this special treatment for multinational companies, and the parliamentary scrutiny and vote on CETA should give us the chance to do this</span></span></span></span><span><span><span>.</span></span></span></span></p><p><span><span><span>While concerns about the future of public services worry many across Europe, CETA has launched us in a direction that could further undermine them. For the first time, all services will be subject to a liberalised trade system unless explicitly excluded in writing, under what they call a ‘negative list’ approach. Previously, EU trade deals liberalised only what was specifically listed and agreed by national governments. Now any service, public or otherwise, that comes into being in the future, will be automatically liberalised, thereby severely limiting our governments’ ability to bring a service back under public control. In a&nbsp;</span></span></span><a href="" target="_blank"><span><span><span>report</span></span></span></a><span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></span><span><span><span>called&nbsp;</span></span></span><span><span><span><em>Public Services Under Attack</em></span></span></span><span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></span><span><span><span>a group of European NGOs make clear how this process turbo-charges and then sets in stone the process of privatisation:</span></span></span></p><p><span>‘<span><span><span>A very limited general exemption only exists for services “supplied in the exercise of governmental authority”. But to qualify for this exemption, a service has to be carried out “neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with one or more economic operators”. Yet nowadays, in virtually all traditional public sectors, private companies exist alongside public suppliers – often resulting in fierce competition between the two. This effectively limits the governmental authority exemption to a few core sovereign functions such as law enforcement, the judiciary, or the services of a central bank.’</span></span></span></span></p><p lang="en-US"> <span><span><span>There is no surprise that negotiators do not want politicians or those they serve to know what is going on, because the agreements they are reaching blatantly advance the interests of the corporations who have been so busy lobbying for them.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>So where’s the political fight-back? </span></span><span><span>The Green Group has been at the forefront of battling CETA and we are still the leading opponents now it has reached the stage of being ratified – or not – by the European Parliament. This process began on 21 November and in an extreme acceleration of the normal process it was proposed that we vote on it in December! As part of the same stitch-up we are being deprived of a debate and a resolution and will only have a chance to vote Yes or No. Meanwhile consultation with national parliaments has been reduced to a single lunch meeting with one representative from each country’s parliament. Hardly the rigorous scrutiny we might expect for a treaty with such far-reaching consequences.</span></span></span></p><p><span><span><span>T</span></span></span><span><span><span>he Greens managed to ensure that a number of committees could give written opinions on CETA, so MEPs had the chance to explore some of its content fully before we are asked to vote. Back in December, the employment committee&nbsp;</span></span></span><a href="" target="_blank"><span><span><span>voted</span></span></span></a><span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></span><span><span><span>to reject CETA because of the threat i</span></span></span><span><span><span>t</span></span></span><span><span><span> poses to employment rights.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>Earlier this month the opinion in the environment committee saw the socialists split down the middle, </span></span><span><span>with many ignoring Green</span></span><span><span> concerns about threats that EU law on chemicals, pesticides, animal welfare, food safety and climate protection may all be watered down.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>Bart Staes, who wrote the opinion, was clear that:</span></span></span></p><p> <span>‘<span><span><span>[The Commission] has undermined the EU fuel quality directive to allow Canada to export fuel from dirty tar sands, and now even proposes to unlawfully modify provisions on endocrine disrupters in pesticide law. The Commission has acted in the interests of Canadian companies by refraining from banning cyanide in mining despite the </span></span></span><span><span><span>European Parliament</span></span></span><span><span><span> calling for a ban, and by recently </span></span></span><span><span><span>authorising</span></span></span><span><span><span> the use of carcinogenic substances in paints (lead chromates) even though EU companies use safer alternatives’</span></span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>The agriculture committee may not even give a view, despite the treaty having deeply troubling implications for Europe’s farmers. CETA includes the dropping of tariffs on 97% of products, including on most agricultural products, so as MEP for the South West England this concerns me greatly. The likelihood is that we will see our markets flooded with poor-quality North American food, stuffed with hormones and modified genes, from mega-farms that destroy environments, family farms and rural communities.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>As Greens we have been battering CETA for years but it limps along. To deal the killer blow we would need the whole-hearted support of the socialists in the Parliament. </span></span></span> </p><p> <span><span><span>Sadly, they have been ambivalent at best. With so much heat on this issue at home, most Labour MEPs are now voting against committee opinions on CETA - but they are not bringing their European socialist colleagues with them.</span></span></span></p><p> <span><span><span>The European Parliament is now the last chance of blocking this damaging assault on democratic power. But without solid opposition from the socialists in the Parliament it is likely that CETA will be passed in February. As the vote in the Environment Committee showed, they are now divided. We need Jeremy Corbyn to keep true to his rhetorical opposition to CETA and to instruct his MEPs to vote it down. And please do what you can by making a noise about CETA and by letting your MEPs know that you want them to vote against the ratification of this damaging and anti-democratic treaty.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/paul-magnette/huge-victory-for-belgiums-ceta-opponents-paul-magnettes-speech">A huge victory for Belgium&#039;s CETA opponents: Paul Magnette&#039;s speech</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/molly-scottcato/meps%27-mounting-ttip-opposition-scandalously-silenced-ahead-of-knifeedge-us-vo">MEPs&#039; mounting TTIP opposition scandalously silenced ahead of knife-edge US vote</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/nhs-theresa-mays-dowry-gift-to-donald-trump">The NHS - Theresa May&#039;s dowry gift to Donald Trump?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/rosemary-bechler-molly-scott-cato/we-need-bolder-politicians">We need bolder politicians</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> ourNHS uk ourNHS Molly Scott-Cato Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:06:13 +0000 Molly Scott-Cato 108202 at We need bolder politicians <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“We have seen a lengthy period during which politicians have deliberately disengaged from important aspects of what they should be doing, leading to a lot of disillusionment with politics.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager at EU HQ in August, 2016 says that Ireland must now recover the unpaid back taxes from Apple, plus interest. Associated Press/Virginia Mayo. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>Rosemary Bechler (RB<em>)</em></strong><em>: Joseph Stiglitz speaking on the BBC Today programme after yourself, said that the European Commissioner’s three years of research into Apple’s dealings in Ireland had shone a light on the dark side of globalisation, and that the deal exemplified a kind of ‘moral depravity’ – would you go that far?</em></p> <p><strong>Molly Scott Cato MEP (MSC):</strong> I’m not too interested in the morality: that’s a different perspective on things. I certainly agree that this is effectively what happens when transnational corporations operate beyond local control, and that that is the result of globalisation. </p> <p><strong>RB:</strong> <em>Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner is being criticised on various grounds – creating uncertainty for multinationals, retrospective punishment, or interfering with national taxation systems – but you think she’s doing a pretty good job on behalf of Europeans ? </em></p> <p><strong>MSC: </strong>Her job is to make sure that member states of the EU keep to EU law, and what she is doing is enforcing that law. She has found that the deal that Ireland offered to Apple was basically not fair competition. It is a single market, so people have to compete fairly. Governments can’t favour certain corporate or economic players over others. She found that by offering them this special tax deal Ireland had done that. </p> <p>So really all she is doing is requiring governments to keep to Treaty law, and behind that she is making sure that they don’t bend over backwards to help corporations out rather than working for citizens. If some countries work to help corporations, it undermines the ability of citizens generally to benefit. The tax that she says is owed to Ireland actually is the result of earnings made by Apple right across the European Union and so we have all been deprived of tax revenue needed for investment in our public services.</p> <p><strong>RB: </strong><em>How long do you think this kind of ‘race to the bottom’ has been under way?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC: </strong>It has gathered speed since globalisation took off and since companies have been able to move and transfer their profits with the speed and ease that they are now able to do. Companies selling digital products are able to do this much more easily than companies with physical products, so that is part of the change as well. Also, it has just taken people a while to wise up to what the corporations are doing. And ever since the financial crisis when economic conditions got much more harsh, people are just not prepared to put up with that any more.</p> <p><strong>RB: </strong><em>We are told that the<strong> </strong>13 billion euros owed to Ireland equals the annual budget for their health service – what response do you think a national government should make under these circumstances?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC</strong>:&nbsp; I don’t think Ireland should get that money, because Apple are only choosing to be in Ireland because of the favourable tax regime. Lots of companies, many US corporations, book their profits in Luxembourg. But the tax due shouldn’t just go to Luxembourg, because that money was made right across the European Union and so belongs to all EU nations. One of the things we are working on is starting a public consultation about what should really happen to that money. Although it is a huge amount of money, this is only one corporation. There are lots of others, avoiding paying taxes and based in Ireland for that reason. And there are many more probably based in Luxembourg. The City of London is also running tax havens and the Netherlands is running tax avoidance schemes – so there is a huge amount of unpaid tax. </p> <p><strong>RB:&nbsp; </strong><em>It </em><a href=""><em>has been said</em></a><em> that this judgment is, “A great day for the sovereignty of the EU’s nations when it comes to tax.” </em></p> <p><strong>MSC: </strong>I’m not sure about sovereignty. But what I do think is that it is an important indication that somebody – namely Vestager – has the courage to stand up to corporate power and to require corporations to operate for the public and for the social good, which they have not been required to do till now. Generations of politicians have bent over backwards to do anything to attract corporations to base themselves in their country, and haven’t required them to reach good social standards. The corporations have been in the driving seat.</p> <p>Vestager is sending a very clear signal now that if you want to operate in the European single market – 500 million of the world’s richest consumers&nbsp; – then you have to reach certain standards, on tax, but also on environmental standards, on employment standards and so on. </p> <p><strong>RB: </strong><em>Apple spokespeople raise the prospect of some kind of ‘economic war’ between the US and the EU. Is that likely?</em>&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>MSC: </strong>What is this ‘war’ going to consist of – them refusing to sell us their products? So far the US has done things to suit itself, constantly working for their benefit. They have a law that says any tax earned anywhere in the world is basically tax earned at home if it is a US company! So part of the reason why this money is sloshing around offshore is because US corporate tax is 35% – one of the highest tax rates in the world. They are benefiting from high corporate tax rates, protecting their corporations. &nbsp;Moreover, they are not actually signing up for full transparency. The US has not signed up to the common reporting standard to which <em>we </em>are all now giving more information on tax earnings. &nbsp;So they have been in a uniquely powerful position and therefore they have protected their corporations. And we are saying we have had enough of that. Is that a war?&nbsp; I think we just want the same rules for everybody!</p> <p>The way the global economy has worked has been very much in favour of the US: it is not a level playing field. Take TTIP. This has failed because the US basically tried to bully EU negotiators. And their corporations have operated in a similarly high-handed way. </p> <p><strong>RB: </strong><em>Is it a coincidence that the EU is pulling back on the TTIP negotiations at the same time as Vestager launches her challenge?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC: </strong>I think, to be honest, that it is a coincidence. It is more to do with the fact that we are getting to the end of the Obama administration, so it is clear that that trade deal won’t go through during his presidency. And the discussion in the US is much less pro-free trade than it was. There is also likely to be a different atmosphere under the next US president, whoever wins. </p> <p><strong>RB: </strong><em>Investors have declared a war of their own in a way, haven’t they, by sueing governments over tax-related disputes, some of them successfully lowering their tax bills in the process?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC: </strong>I think the whole vocabulary around ‘investment’ has become a bit debased really.&nbsp; As I’ve said several times, in the EU as a whole, people want to trade with us because we have a lot of money to spend… so we should be much more forceful and courageous in making them meet our standards. That is why I applaud Vestager. She is standing up for Europe and saying, we have a right to demand these standards and we are going to do that! I’m afraid too many of her predecessors haven’t done that and have caved in under pressure really.</p> <p><strong>RB: </strong><em>The City of London, as you’ve mentioned, is a big player in the internal tax haven landscape. How important is it that people begin to realise the extent of this ?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC: </strong>It’s very important. I think people are learning fast about what is going on. The Panama Papers was obviously quite a watershed in illustrating the extent of tax avoidance, even though that was wealthy people rather than corporations. But more than half the ‘shell companies’ that were revealed in that disclosure were registered in the British Virgin Islands, so the networks that link British overseas territories back to the City of London are a key part of the global tax avoidance industry. </p> <p>The Netherlands have similar offshore territories, and we began with Ireland and Luxembourg who operate tax havens inside the European Union. We have a European parliamentary committee that has been set up as a result of the Panama Papers information that has some quite significant powers, and we are going to be investigating further exactly how these networks of tax avoidance work. We will be working with the EU Commission, with Vestager but also with Moscivizi who is the Commissioner responsible for tax, and our investigations together with their proposals mean that we are making some decent headway.&nbsp; </p> <p>We have to make sure that a decent amount of tax is paid because actually the corporations themselves need that. Tax pays for decent broadband networks and phones and educated potential employees – they can’t function without these things! </p> <p><strong>RB: </strong><em>&nbsp;If this goes to appeal it will be alongside Starbucks and FIAT cases: could this be a turning point for this area of legislation?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC:</strong> It’s an ongoing process. I think we are seeing the beginning of a process in which figures in the Commission but also elected politicians really begin to take this seriously. Politicians are going to have to act in the interests of the people who elect them and stand up to corporations. This is one good example of that happening. There are plenty of other spheres in which it needs to happen. And my hope is that rather than just voting in demagogues, people will start voting for politicians who will take on corporations. And instead of just moaning about their politicians, who I admit in many cases have been pretty disappointing, I hope people will demand that they act more forcefully in their interests and battle the corporations on their behalf. </p> <p><strong>RB: &nbsp;</strong><em>Talking about the impact of BREXIT on this issue, you hoped that the UK would not be allowed to escape its obligations in this area – is that right?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC: </strong>Well I see that already Conservative Home, which is one of the internal think tanks of the Conservative Party, is effectively saying – “This is a great opportunity, because we are leaving the EU and so will be able to be a tax haven now”. But it rather depends what kind of BREXIT we get. If we stay as part of the single market then obviously we will still be bound by a lot of these rules. But some of the more right wing Conservatives are now saying that we should come out of the single market altogether, which would obviously be disastrous in terms of jobs.&nbsp; So that’s what the battle is about now. Obviously BREXIT effects many aspects of our economic life, but tax is just one of those.</p> <p><strong>RB: </strong><em>Both presidential candidates in the US elections are thinking of lowering corporate taxes. In terms of your hope that electorates will hold their politicians much more to account, can anything good come out of the US elections?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC: </strong>We saw from Bernie Sanders that there is a very significant group of the US electorate that are exactly on the same track that I have been arguing, and that Commissioner Vestage is arguing. Alright, thy didn’t manage to get the democratic candidate, but Hillary Clinton would be foolish to ignore that. She would be foolish to go all out to appeal to the corporations when that is just a tiny proportion of the people in the US. </p> <p>Who knows where Trump is coming from? I really find it impossible to make a serious comment about his policy because it is rhetoric. </p> <p>But for Hillary Clinton, this is one of the things she is going to have to weigh up. She knows that she is not popular and that she had much stronger competition from Sanders than she would have expected. She should, if she is a good politician, move some way towards some of their concerns, and taking a serious approach to tax avoidance would go a long way towards doing that.</p> <p><strong>RB: </strong><em>So, to conclude, where will this play out most importantly in terms of public opinion? How important are trade unions for example? What are your hopes?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC: &nbsp;</strong>You can see how important popular support is, because as Greens, we started this battle in the European Union, and now Labour and the Socialist Group more generally are endlessly competing with us over being seen as the leaders on these issues. So that tells you that there are votes in it. </p> <p>In terms of Britain, we have seen particularly John McDonnell repeatedly using this as part of his platform. And Labour Party members are obviously very strongly in favour of resisting corporate tax avoidance and I think it is a very popular policy. It is not hard to win that argument really. People feel it is very unfair that companies can avoid tax, and also that large companies can avoid tax when small companies have to pay it. So it is a policy that is very popular right across the political spectrum I would say…</p> <p><strong>RB:</strong> <em>As an MEP looking across the European Union, do you think this type of politics could be the basis for a progressive coalition between social democrats, greens, feminists, and others?</em></p> <p><strong>MSC: </strong>Part of the reason why people are losing faith in the European Union and in politics more generally is because they are asking, “Well what are you doing for me?” They don’t see politicians serving their interests very well. I think that sort of centrist politics that said, “Well. We will just trust the corporations to run our economic life, and we will have minimum government involvement in the economy” – hasn’t worked. </p> <p>People are now demanding from their politicians that they do offer more in terms of engagement with economic life, whether that is through better public services, or making sure that corporations pay their taxes to fund those services. We are moving in that direction now and I think that is entirely right. </p> <p>We have seen a lengthy period during which politicians have deliberately disengaged from some important aspects of what they should be doing, and that has led to a lot of disillusionment with politics. If the European Union leads the way in terms of the politics that operates beyond the nation state, such as tackling corporate power, then that is a powerful role, and people might say, “ Well now I can see that the EU does act in my interests.” </p> <p>Some of what I have written about the Apple issue is couched precisely in those terms, saying, “This is the European Union acting for citizens, and this is what we have lost as a result of voting to leave…”. &nbsp;</p> <p>I’m chuffed, because I am an admirer of Margrethe Vestager, and I think she is a tough cookie and a clever woman. She has got the bit between her teeth and she won’t be stopping. This is the beginning of what she plans to do – and good luck to her! </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/molly-scottcato/meps%27-mounting-ttip-opposition-scandalously-silenced-ahead-of-knifeedge-us-vo">MEPs&#039; mounting TTIP opposition scandalously silenced ahead of knife-edge US vote</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/mary-kaldor-alex-sakalis-rosemary-bechler/if-eu-didn-t-exist-we-would-have-to-inv">If the EU didn’t exist, we would have to invent it</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/sabine-selchow/mogherini-s-european-union-in-changing-global-environment-discursi">Mogherini’s The European Union in a changing global environment: a discursive space to rethink the world </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opencitydocs/rosemary-bechler/democracy-call-to-arms">Democracy – a call to arms</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ireland </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Luxembourg </div> <div class="field-item even"> Netherlands </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Netherlands Luxembourg UK United States Ireland EU Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Rosemary Bechler Molly Scott-Cato Fri, 09 Sep 2016 13:00:28 +0000 Molly Scott-Cato and Rosemary Bechler 105233 at MEPs' mounting TTIP opposition scandalously silenced ahead of knife-edge US vote <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Faced with a possible shock rejection of TTIP by MEPs, Brussels simply cancelled the vote this week – and now Washington moves swiftly to speed up the publicly unpopular trade deal.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Wikipedia</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><a href="">For a while there</a>, it looked like the EU/US TTIP deal – the monumental power grab by corporations over democracy – was, far from “fast-tracking” in the US, crawling along the slow lane, or maybe even stalled in the hard shoulder. Democrat senators dug their heels in last month on TTIP (and the equally contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership (<a href="">TTP</a>) deal), claiming these trade deals would&nbsp;drag down US wages and cost American jobs.&nbsp; </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>But these Democrats eventually decided to switch sides.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>And now it looks like Obama is going for a <a href="">high-stakes vote to renew the ‘fast-track’ TTIP</a> negotiation process (minimising democratic oversight) <a href="">as early as tomorrow (Friday</a></span><span>)</span><span>.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>It’s in this light that we have to view the scandalous decision by the EU presidency to deny myself and other MEPs a vote on TTIP this week. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>A vote on the deeply unpopular deal was due on Wednesday - the first big test of all MEPs on TTIP.</span></p><p><span>In recent days, a shock upset looked possible. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Both socialist and conservative groups alike were coming under massive public pressure. A network of 170 European civil society organisations have <a href="">denounced the deal as a threat to democracy</a> and an attempt to put the interests of big business before the protection of citizens, workers, and the environment. Almost <a href="">two million people</a> have signed a European Citizens’ Initiative petition against TTIP, and there have been large demonstrations across Europe.</span></p><p><span>During the last week or so, MEPs including myself have received <a href=";;">thousands of emails</a> every day – an unprecedented level of interest from the public who normally find EU issues somewhat remote.</span></p><p><span>The public were in particular urging MEPs to rally behind a cross-party amendment (supported by Greens and other Left MEPs including some Socialists) to <a href="">put on record parliament’s unequivocal opposition to one of the most contentious aspects of TTIP</a> - the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. This would involve the setting up of special courts to allow corporations to sue governments if they pass laws which limited a corporation’s profits or activity – even their future profits.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Political parties were <a href="">running scared</a>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>It looked increasingly possible that the EU parliament would, in defiance of its leadership, put on record either its opposition to these ‘investor courts’ - or even to TTIP as a whole.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Such a defeat in Brussels, whilst not ultimately decisive, would have made matters extremely awkward in Washington as they approached a <a href="">highly sensitive stage</a> – and maybe even derailed the whole process.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>But then, in a highly unusual move, the EU vote was <a href="">pulled at the last minute</a>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The <a href="">official line</a> from the parliament is that because more than 200 amendments were tabled the vote should be postponed to enable the trade committee to consider the amendments before tabling them for a future plenary session.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Actually, </span><span>this was a scandalous attempt to remove the right of all MEPs to vote, or even speak out in parliament, on this very important report on TTIP, at a critical juncture on both sides of the Atlantic. The vote now returns to the trade committee for redrafting, and it’s currently unclear if MEPs will get a vote on it this side of the summer.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Meanwhile in the US, in an attempt to win over wavering Republicans on the trade deal, the US government has promised that it will be <a href="">prevented from containing any requirements for the US to take any action on climate change</a>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The EU leadership is cheating MEPs of our rights to represent the will of our constituents. Our rights to defend hard-fought-for regulations on workers rights, environmental protection, public services and animal rights, which are </span><span>all threatened by the ‘harmonisation’ of standards and a potential race to the bottom on standards.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>And our right to </span><span>oppose investor courts (ISDS).</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>TTIP is a good example of the democratic deficit in the EU and how this can be exploited by corporations to further their interests, often at the expense of Europe’s citizens. Because the EU is not a nation state, democratic representatives in the member countries have little oversight of the negotiation of treaties. In the case of TTIP this negotiation is delegated to officials working for the Commission. None of the people involved have a democratic mandate.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> True, the Treaty that is eventually negotiated will have to receive a vote of approval in the European Parliament and can be vetoed by any member state in the Council of Ministers. But – whilst Obama has to fight for his “fast track”, in the EU, the Commission has a permanent fast track. The disgust that many in Europe are now feeling about the threats from TTIP cannot be used to put pressure on their elected representatives, who have very little power in this process. Corporate lobbyists, by contrast, are free to lobby trade negotiators and employees of the Commission, who never have to account to citizens for their actions.&nbsp; <br /> &nbsp;<br /> Private interest groups overwhelmingly dominated the European Commission's TTIP consultations. With nine out of ten lobby contacts during the preparatory phase of the negotiations being with <a href="">companies and corporate lobby groups</a>, they have effectively co-written the TTIP agenda. And it is clear that citizen’s voices are being ignored. Since the results of the Commission’s own consultation on the insidious Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause were released, showing a <a href="">97% rejection rate by respondents</a>, a panicked Commission has desperately sought to come up with magic language to save it. But they only talk about what sort of ISDS we want, and never about whether we want to keep it at all.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Those of us who are supportive of the EU project on the whole, but critical of TTIP, must challenge the positive assumptions shared by many EU governments, including our own, that TTIP is a "win-win" for citizens here and in the US. The debate taking place in the US shows this to be a false premise. We need to defend our European democracy and our values, by joining those standing up to big business interests.</span></p><p><span>The European Union delivers many positive impacts for its citizens and for the wider world; but the secret negotiations surrounding TTIP are undermining trust.&nbsp;To restore citizens' faith we need our representatives in the European Parliament - the Union's only elected body - to be given a real voice in such negotiations, and full disclosure of all negotiation texts.&nbsp; This will allow citizens and their representatives to judge whether TTIP will see everyone win, as promised by its proponents, or whether the deal will indeed be a serious threat to health, welfare and environmental standards as feared by its many opponents. &nbsp;</span></p><p><em><strong>Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS&nbsp;</strong></em><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>here&nbsp;</strong></a><em><strong>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/jude-kirtondarling/ttip-big-eu-vote-this-wednesday-make-your-voice-heard-now">The EU has a big vote on TTIP this Wednesday - make your voice heard now</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/john-hilary/ttip-denial-in-face-of-defeat">TTIP - denial in face of defeat</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/nhs-boss-stevens-and-ttip-lobbyists">NHS boss Stevens and the TTIP &#039;trade&#039; lobbyists who threaten our NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/gus-fagan/trade-deals-is-mood-turning">Trade deals - is the mood turning?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/john-hilary/on-ttip-and-nhs-they-are-trying-to-bamboozle-us">On TTIP and the NHS, they are trying to bamboozle us</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> ourNHS Can Europe make it? uk ourNHS Molly Scott-Cato TTIP Thu, 11 Jun 2015 16:39:19 +0000 Molly Scott-Cato 93476 at Molly Scott-Cato <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Molly Scott-Cato </div> </div> </div> <p>Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the South West of England. She is Green Party speaker on finance and was formerly Professor of Strategy and Sustainability at the University of Roehampton.</p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the South West of England. She is Green Party speaker on finance and an was formerly Professor of Strategy and Sustainability at the University of Roehampton. </div> </div> </div> Molly Scott-Cato Wed, 12 Mar 2014 13:44:03 +0000 Molly Scott-Cato 80230 at Bad science, health risks, and the EU/US trade treaty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Whether on GM foods, pesticides, or pharmaceuticals, the EU/US trade treaty aims to strip away higher European regulations that protect public health but hinder corporate profits.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// risk.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// risk.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Flickr/<a href="">Jetsandzeppelins</a></em></p><p class="Body"><span>A new corporate treaty is lumbering through the corridors of power, threatening to undermine our democratic rights and consumer protection. The negotiations are being conducted in secret so we cannot speak with certainty about what the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) contains. We must garner clues from the public utterances of its supporters.</span></p><p class="Body"><span>I read with interest a recent </span><a href="///C:/Users/User/Downloads/1.%09http:/">article</a><span> in the </span><em>Wall Street Journal</em><span> by my Conservative opponent in the South-West European Elections, Julie Girling. More interesting than why she chose to write the article, or why to publish it in the US corporate capital, is the question of why she targets her argument on EU legislation to protect us from harmful chemicals.</span></p><p class="Body"><span>Girling at least engages with the issue of the risk and harm that lies at the heart of the polarised debate about the benefits or otherwise of the TTIP. This is more grown-up than the bandying around of bogus figures of potential job losses or financial gain that characterises the Liberal Democrats’ <a href="">justification</a> for their economic policies, with its rather imprecise claim of a ‘</span><span>four to ten billion pound’ boost for the UK economy</span><span>.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span>In connection with the TTIP, the South-West's Liberal democrat MEP Graham Watson claimed in his November newsletter that 'I tend to the view that trade is a good thing, creating prosperity, securing jobs, and promoting peace'.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span>I tend to the view that a trade treaty that has to be negotiated in secret is unlikely to be of benefit to the citizens of either the US or the EU</span>. Most of what we know about it so far has come into the public domain through leaks. One cannot help wonder whether these leaks have emerged from US spying activities, as highlighted in a resolution put down by Green MEPs and passed by the EU's <span>Civil Liberties Committee C</span>ommittee.</p> <p class="Body"><span>What can we learn about the true aims of the treaty from Girling’s article? She focuses her fire on the precautionary principle - the principle that constrains the worst excesses of corporate damage in the EU context. She claims that existing restraints are the result of scare-mongering and makes a plea to the importance of 'established norms of science and risk management' as though the suited profiteers had monopoly rights on the understanding of risk.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span>Recent critical academic research would argue that risk paradigms are precisely invented to entrench certain powerful positions and to give them a seemingly objective validity above rival views.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span>We should also tackle the claim that ‘t</span><span>he body's endocrine system is designed to interact with the environment’, </span><span>so artificial chemicals pose no threat to our health. The bizarre comparison between an adrenalin response to a barking dog and a hormone response to bisphenol A (one of the chemicals that interferes with our hormones) seems far-fetched in the extreme. We are physiologically and emotionally evolved to deal with potentially dangerous animals, but even the most enthusiastic Darwinist would not credit our evolutionary capacity with the responsiveness to deal with chemicals that came into widespread use only since the 1960s.</span></p> <p class="Body">Since the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> article is devoid of references it is impossible to check out the claim that 'Europe's mainstream scientific community' objects to use of the precautionary principle; we also unable to check out the views of the 67 cited 'influential scientists' and their sources of funding. However the endocrine-disrupting chemicals are of enough significance to have caused the World Health Organisation to publish technical briefings for governments and to warn of possible contamination routes and potential harms ranging from breast cancer to neurodevelopmental delays.</p> <p class="Body">What the article helpfully does from the perspective of those of us who are suspicious of the intentions of TTIP is to make clear that the focus is on non-tariff barriers. This means regulations on food, drugs and chemicals that are higher in the EU than in the US and therefore constrain the corporate profits that flow from free movement of goods. </p> <p class="Body">Rather than pretend it is we as citizens who will benefit economically, Girling makes clear that it is the corporates who feel themselves hampered by such non-tariff barriers who will benefit.</p> <p class="Body"><span>TTIP is not about trade, as its name falsely implies, but about corporate power. If it is allowed to succeed then the European Union's very sensible precautionary principle will be only one of the casualties. We are being prepared for a renewed onslaught from the pedlars of genetically modified foods, pharmaceuticals and further onslaughts against social protections will follow as the corporations engage in a race to the bottom of social and consumer standards. And the ‘investor-state dispute mechanism’ part of TTIP will mean that governments merely seeking to protect their citizens will be forced to pay millions in compensation.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span>Julie Girling’s article highlights how the debate over TTIP will be fought. Those who are supporting the expansion of corporate power will attack the standards that generations of European citizens have fought to introduce in areas like harmful chemicals, pharmaceuticals and GM food. We have already seen a relaunch of the propaganda war on GM in the last few months.</span></p> <p class="Body"><span>We should recognise this pattern and set the alarm bells ringing in every media outlet we have access to. And most importantly we should do everything we can to make the secret negotiations public and to spread the word about the attack on democracy, economic resilience, and public health that this secret, corporate treaty is really about.</span></p><p class="Body"><span>&nbsp;</span><em><strong><span>Like this piece? OurNHS relies on&nbsp;</span></strong></em><a href="" target="_blank"><strong><span>reader donations&nbsp;</span></strong></a><em><strong><span>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</span></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/ruth-bergan/this-treaty-isnt-about-trade-its-fight-for-public-services-everywhere">This treaty isn&#039;t about &#039;trade&#039; - it&#039;s a fight for public services everywhere</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/john-hilary/why-this-year%E2%80%99s-davos-could-be-bad-for-our-health">Why this year’s Davos could be bad for our health</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/gus-fagan/eu-us-free-trade-and-risks-to-nhs">EU-US Free Trade and the risks to the NHS</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/corporate-europe-observatory-transnational-institute/transatlantic-corporate-bill-of-rights">A transatlantic corporate bill of rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> ourNHS uk ourNHS TTIP EU/US Free Trade Molly Scott-Cato Wed, 12 Mar 2014 13:40:58 +0000 Molly Scott-Cato 80228 at