As a block of 500 million people, Europe is arguably the most desirable trading partner in the world, even more so since the collapse of the Trans Pacific Partnership following the election of Donald Trump.
As a result, the public are scrutinising our trade deals. They have shown their resounding opposition to ISDS/ICS at every opportunity, in yet the trade establishment is only willing to tinker at the edges of its old recipe. More imagination is needed if the EU and its trade policy is to regain public credibility.
TTIP aimed to curb regulations and remove all customs duties on corporations trading between the US and the EU, as well as removing 'non-tariff trade barriers'. This broad and ill-defined term included any law, financial regulation, ethical code, health standard or environmental protection that restricted the operations of US corporations within the EU.
The scenario which now looks plausible is this: the UK heads for a hard Brexit completely cutting ties with the EU, and turns itself into a low-tax, low-standards economy, destroying decades of law building up environmental protection. This is done by a deregulatory government unhindered by Parliament, yet without a mandate from either a General Election or, in any meaningful way, the EU referendum. There was a clear 'leave' vote on 23 June, but it's also clear people weren't voting in favour of diluted environmental standards. Theresa May called for Britain to 'come together' to make a success of Brexit. But that would mean supporting a process that, in its most extreme version, would require degrading and debasing environmental standards
This is why as we marked the occasion of Right to Know Day, I joined the protest outside this latest reading room in Brussels. It is totally inappropriate for private companies to control transparency in this way and to put their profits ahead of our right to information. We need to put the "freedom" back into "freedom of information." so that we know how our health and environment might be impacted. As policy makers we have a right to verify or challenge findings and to work for the public good.
If the Apple ruling signifies a small step in the right direction, the Commission's continued support for ISDS proves that there is still a long way to go before the rights of citizens are as respected as the rights of corporations.
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.
When it comes to planning to rebalance the British economy away from our dangerous, unproductive reliance on the financial sector, the model of German banking, with regional and local banks that fund and support small and medium enterprises for the long haul has a lot to offer. Of course we can also work with knowledge and skills from other parts of the world outside the EU, but by being already partners, members of the same union, the impetus for cooperation is stronger, the frameworks clearer, the funding available for cross-EU work ready for applications.
I don't have much sympathy for the European Union in its current form. The EU has a congenitally undemocratic DNA that is