Taking back control was one of the slogans of the Brexiteers, based on a fear that our freedoms were threatened by the dead hand of the EU. You can argue that one back and forth, but the supposed repressive hand of the Brussels bureaucrats is as nothing compared with the threat of two separate, but twinned, trade agreements which will give the big global corporations control over democratically elected governments.
Forgive us if you’ve already heard of TTIP, but to our horror a great many people haven’t. This is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a deal which gives the multinationals the right to appeal against government decisions which affect their profits. We’re not talking theory here: in areas already covered by TTIP many governments – often of poor countries which can’t afford to lose – have had their national exchequers drained of millions because corporations don’t like the way that food safety laws, environmental legislation and banking regulations have affected their businesses.
Everything’s rigged in favour of these huge firms, with business-friendly lawyers dominating the ‘arbitration tribunals’ which settle disputes.
The good news is that, after largely secret negotiations but also vigorous protests by those few in the know, the EC is on the point of ditching a proposed TTIP agreement with the US.
The bad news – for details of which read George Monbiot in today’s Guardian – is that a carbon copy monstrosity known as Ceta (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) is now silently being agreed between the EU and Canada. These people never give up.
How might it affect us? Let’s give just one example. As the Tory government moves increasingly towards a privatised health service, a multinational complains that one particular piece of legislation unfairly denies it a chance of making profits from the NHS. The government may fight this appeal in the courts, forking out millions and probably losing in any case, or it has a good excuse to surrender – taking us yet further towards a decidedly undemocratic future in which global companies rule the roost.
We’re in control? Lady Thatcher is giving a very big wink indeed . . .