Unite calls again on David Cameron to use his veto to protect the NHS

Pic © Jess Hurd

Pic © Jess Hurd

New expert legal advice has redoubled the efforts of Unite to call on David Cameron to use his veto to protect the NHS from the EU-US trade deal called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Legal advice from an expert in EU law and healthcare services has confirmed that there are clear dangers arising from TTIP that will impact the NHS unless David Cameron uses his veto to deliver a robust carve-out.

The advice from Dr Kyriaki-Korina Raptopoulou who received her doctorate from King College London confirms major concerns raised by Unite, despite these concerns being dismissed by the UK government and the European Commission.

Dr Raptopoulou examined the relevant soft law instruments, such as communications and other documents released by the Commission. Dr Raptopoulou also drew on pertinent, analogous international agreements; especially the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the draft Canada-EU agreement (CETA), which has been much touted as a precursor to TTIP.

Included in the detailed report, entitled The Legal Implications for the NHS of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the following major concerns have been identified:

  •  the advice confirms that the NHS is included in the material scope of TTIP and without a full and clear exemption it will clearly be subject to the agreement.
  • TTIP is likely to provide for ‘full restitution’ in expropriation cases. This means that if the government brings NHS services back into the public sector, future lost profits may have to be compensated for, as well as the market value of any property or business lost.
  •  the potential impacts of TTIP on the NHS are not solely dependent on Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) being in place. Investors could still bring cases against the UK government and bypass domestic courts via the US government though State-State arbitration.
  •  TTIP will promote the risk of suppressing future healthcare legislation through the phenomenon of ‘regulatory chilling’.

Dr Kyriaki-Korina Raptopoulou said: “I have undertaken a detailed examination of the relevant documents released by the Commission. I have also drawn on pertinent international agreements including  the draft Canada-EU agreement (CETA), which has been touted as a precursor to the TTIP.

“The concerns of the British people about the potentially negative impact of the TTIP on the NHS are clearly well founded, as is shown by my study.

“The TTIP generates a number of serious concerns, the UK government and the European Commission should take them seriously. They should not be dismissed as “myths” or “scaremongering”.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Expert legal advice confirms our worst fears about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This is why we are calling on David Cameron to use his veto to deliver a robust carve out.

“There is no doubt that NHS services are being included in TTIP. As a result there is the clear risk of irreversible privatisation because the trade deal will give US corporations or investors the right to sue our government if it ever tried to take back services into public ownership.

“The advice also makes clear that even the implicit threat raised by these new rights and the billions of pounds at stake can paralyse any attempts to take privatised services back into public ownership once the trade deal is signed.

“The UK government has no mandate to hand new rights over our NHS to US corporations and their lawyers. We urge David Cameron to act.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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