The debate surrounding the EU elections in the UK has been dominated by politicians from the three main parties trying to appeal to UKIP voters on issues of domestic policy - without actually discussing the biggest challenges currently facing the EU, and how your vote can change them. In the coming months, the greatest threat to the British economy and sovereignty isn't poor European migrants, but massive American corporations looking to capitalise on the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP)
The TTIP is a proposed agreement between the European Union and the United States that aims to cut the regulation that deters big corporations from trading between the two economies. The EU currently makes €59.2billion more from trade with the US than the US makes from the EU. However, the repercussions of the TTIP are heavily stacked in favour of big US businesses, to the detriment of EU citizens. Those in favour of the agreement argue that it will increase trade and create more jobs - yet the difference to citizens would be negligible. The figures from The Centre for Economic Policy Research (who are very supportive of the trade deal) predict that EU citizens will only be around €36 better off per year. This is unsurprising, as the deal wasn't constructed with the aim of benefiting the average EU citizen. When drafting the agreement, The European Commission held 8 open meetings with civil society groups; and 119 meetings with corporations and their lobbyists, behind closed doors, with no online record of what was discussed.
The resulting deal calls for the removal of all customs duties for US trade in the EU. The agreement also calls for the removal of 'non-tariff trade barriers'. This broad and ill-defined term includes any democratically decided legislation, financial regulation, ethical code, health standard or environmental protection that currently prevents US corporations from operating within the EU. Most worryingly, the agreement would allow for 'investor-to-state dispute settlements' (ISDS) which would basically allow private companies to sue nations if they democratically elected to pass laws that limit the corporations ability to make profit. These cases wouldn't be settled through national or European courts (as they are deemed to be biased) instead, they would be decided through private 'dispute settlement mechanisms' that the TTIP would create.
The passing of TTIP would mean US private healthcare firms could take over even more National Health contracts; US energy corporations would be free to frack for gas on EU land; US food companies could bypass regulations to sell food currently not deemed fit for consumption in the EU; The US tobacco lobby could ignore plain packaging and advertising law; internet freedom can be totally undermined by US entertainment giants preventing users from being able to share, stream or download digital media; and US banks can operate within the markets completely unregulated. All the while, none of these big American companies would have to pay import or export tariffs to the EU.
Worst of all, if a democratically elected UK government tried to pass legislation stopping the current privatisation of the NHS, banning fracking, increasing food standards, preventing tobacco advertisements, protecting internet freedom or taxing bankers bonuses; an American corporation could effectively sue the government for loss of profits in a private court and win damages paid for by the taxpayer. There is already a precedent for such a case, as the American tobacco corporation Phillip Morris sued the Australian government for billions of dollars in compensation in 2011 after they claimed that health warnings and plain cigarette packaging would damage their profits, and violated a bilateral investment treaty.
The passing of TTIP would inevitably flood the European market with low quality products, allow American corporations to buy off public services, negatively effect the health of millions, permanently damage the environment, encourage risky, speculative and unregulated financial trading and completely undermine national democracy. Lobbyists would be able to effectively blackmail the government into only passing laws that increased profits for dominant corporations; to the detriment of taxpayers, voters and small and medium-sized European businesses.
The Conservative Party, Labour Party and the Liberal Democrat Party all support the TTIP. The knee-jerk reaction of many would be to say that the solution is to vote UKIP or leave the EU. Yet this would in no way protect Britain and Europe from the legislation being passed. UKIP have no stance on the TTIP, an appalling attendance record at the EU parliament, and actively oppose ethical, financial, environmental and health regulation as well as the EU Convention on Human Rights. They have also pledged to abolish the NHS, pushed for fracking in the north west, and argued to lower taxes on financial transactions and wealthy corporate owners - the TTIP would only help to further their ideological cause.
Currently, The Green Party are the only choice for a British voter wishing to oppose the TTIP in the European Parliament. The European Greens have 48 MEPs from 11 EU countries working to fight the plutocratic terms of the transatlantic agreement. Domestically, Green MP Caroline Lucas has presented an early day motion to the UK Parliament to debate the legitimacy of investor-to-state dispute settlements.
Whilst The Green Party support an EU referendum, and advocate radical change from within Europe; they seek to bring about change by turning up, representing their voters and working with like-minded European partners. The goal is to create a more democratic European economy of co-operative, democratic, decentralised groupings of nations and regions whilst safeguarding basic human, social and political rights. A vote for the Green Party in the EU elections is a vote for a Europe-wide crackdown on tax evasion, and the introduction of a Robin Hood Tax on speculative financial transactions, in order to build an economic future based on local businesses working in competitive, sustainable industries. Unfortunately, a vote for any of the other four main parties is a vote that would allow American corporate giants the freedom to degrade the European economy and corrupt our democracy.