Reports coming out of Brussels and Washington suggest that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, otherwise known as TTIP, has been crippled, possibly killed, by Brexit. Informed sources suggest that TTIP will be parked until Britain's Article 50 negotiations have been completed and that there is now a possibility that the deal will never be concluded.
Officially, Brussels is denying there is a problem, but a source close to the TTIP negotiations has said that the European Union won't admit anything is wrong to avoid giving the impression that it is in disarray after the Brexit vote. Some members of the European Parliament are concerned that if the EU cannot fulfil its central purpose of concluding trade deals there may be contagion as more member states seek to follow Britain's lead.
Influential Washington figures warn that Britain represents 16% of the EU market and that the deal must be put on hold. Until Britain's relationship with the EU is finalised, there is no way to assess the nature and scale of the reduction in the EU's market, making it impossible to value. Others in the US are worried about the loss of a liberal, free-market EU member, and wonder how difficult it will be to conclude a deal with some of the more protectionist states that remain.
Officially, the EU Ambassador to the US, David O'Sullivan, has reiterated the intention to complete TTIP by the end of 2016, "The most important thing now is to reach a conclusion between the negotiators this year, and that is how we will go forward, and then it will be for the UK to decide what kind of trade relationship it wants with the United States."
With Article 50 unlikely to be invoked until David Cameron's replacement is chosen, which will happen by September 2nd, there would seem to be insufficient time to conclude the negotiations before the end of the year, and many in Brussels now want to focus on obtaining the right Brexit terms, pushing TTIP down the list of priorities. With next year's elections in France, Germany, and Holland, EU leaders may lack the political capital to ratify TTIP against the rising tide of popular opinion.
Reuters reports that Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics, says the landscape for Americans has now changed, "The 'back of the queue' statement will be forgotten by the next administration, if not sooner. In my view, TTIP is either dormant or dead in the wake of Brexit."
There are some who now believe that the US could negotiate a trade deal with the UK before it completes one with the EU. According to Miriam Sapiro, former deputy US Trade Representative, it may be easier for Washington to negotiate a bilateral trade deal with Britain, a like-minded country that is more open to free trade than the 27 remaining EU members.
The social implications of this are huge. Anyone who follows me will know that I have long warned about the dangers TTIP poses to democracy. TTIP and its baby sister, CETA, a similar trade deal that the EU has negotiated with Canada, enable corporations to sue governments in secret commercial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) courts. For some background on TTIP and ISDS courts, visit War on Want. This right of litigation exposes governments to lawsuits for any policy-induced losses suffered by a corporation, effectively curtailing the ability of democratically elected governments to set policy.
If CETA is ratified before Britain's Article 50 exit negotiations are complete, the UK will be exposed to corporate action through ISDS courts for 20 years after its departure. For that reason, I'd suggest joining War on Want's campaign calling on the Prime Minister to guarantee that MPs will have a vote on CETA. You can sign up here.
Before the Brexit vote, ISDS courts posed a risk to every aspect of life in Britain, but my particular concern was the NHS, which could have been compelled to open up to market forces. The EU has not listened to campaign groups, protestors, and members of the public, who have mobilised against TTIP across the continent, but it seems that with one vote the British people have not only protected themselves from the corporatisation of their democracy, they may have also protected the people of Europe.
Economically, if TTIP does get parked, and the signals already coming from the US translate into action, far from being at the back of the queue, Britain will have moved to the front.
We have a great deal in common with the US and there are many similarities in our economies and legal systems. A US-UK trade deal will be far simpler to conclude than TTIP, and I do not have the same democratic concerns about a bilateral UK-US deal that I had about TTIP. The Leave vote has shown that the people of Britain are prepared to walk away from deals if the terms aren't right, and, with an accountable Parliament overseeing all our trade deals, we can ensure that fundamental legal and constitutional principles, and national treasures, such as the NHS, can be properly protected.
As a Leaver, the last few days haven't been particular encouraging. I've never been vehemently political about anything, other than Britain's membership of the EU, an institution which I've studied in some depth. About a month ago, my Twitter feed transformed from a gentle stream of musings about the creative arts into a torrent of Leave messages, and I know I've lost followers as a result, for which I can only apologise. Within my peer group, I've been in the minority advocating for Leave, but despite my fondness for Europe and the European people, I could not in good conscience accept something as fundamentally contrary to the principles of democracy as the EU and in particular, TTIP. It looks like Brexit has crippled, if not killed, a trade deal that was a profound threat to all of us.
I take some comfort from that, but will not feel at ease with my decision to vote Leave until there's an end to the wave of racially aggravated crimes. I'd like the government to send a clear signal that racism is unacceptable, and immediately implement legislation doubling the sentences for all such crimes. Words of condemnation are welcome, but how about some action?