By Daniel Hunter
More than one million people across Europe, including over 180,000 in the UK, have signed a petition in the last two months opposing trade deals between the European Union and North America.
Activists say the controversial trade deals, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), would put the NHS and other public services at risk of privatisation and give unprecedented power to international corporations. The treaty would allow governments to be sued by corporations if their laws or policies damaged the company's profits.
Just 13% of British adults think the TTIP deal will be good for the country, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by campaigning group 38 Degrees.
According to EU legislation, a petition of more than a million signatures can force politicians to review the deal and hold a hearing in the European Parliament. But the European Commission is facing a legal challenge in the European Court of Justice after preventing the review from taking place. The Stop TTIP coalition, supported by more than 320 civil society organisations, trade unions and consumer watchdogs from 24 different EU member states, decided to go ahead with the petition regardless of the Commission’s refusal to officially register it.
The TTIP negotiations have provoked strong opposition, with over a thousand events taking place across Europe on a day of action on Saturday 11 October, including a thousand people protesting in Parliament Square, London and dropping a banner across the length of Westminster Bridge.
Last month, the new President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker was sworn in amidst speculation that he was considering removing the controversial investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) from TTIP.
Nick Dearden, the director of the World Development Movement, said: “The European Commission is desperately fighting to prevent a critical debate from taking place about these trade deals with North America. With TTIP threatening labour rights, environmental standards and vital public services like the NHS, it’s not surprising that more than a million people have voiced their opposition to it in such a short space of time.”
John Hilary, the director of War on Want, said: “Not only is TTIP predicted to cost at least one million jobs between the EU and USA, but it will also make it impossible for any future government to repeal the Health & Social Care Act and bring the NHS back into public hands.
“There is something rotten in the state of Europe when an unelected, unaccountable EU body can glibly inform millions of us that we no longer have the right to question its most dangerous and unpopular policies.”
Blanche Jones, campaign director at 38 Degrees, said: “It’s no surprise that so many of us are worried about the NHS being used as a bargaining chip in a deal done behind closed doors.
“Most of us only need to take one look at American healthcare to know that that isn’t what we want in Britain. This is a bad deal for ordinary people."
On 9 December, the 60th birthday of Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, campaigners from the Stop TTIP coalition will present the petition as a birthday card in Brussels.
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