How will the UK be affected by the TTIP agreement after Brexit?

Published by Conor Mulvihill on

Interest in concluding talks under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) pact remains strong, with top European Union (EU) trade officials saying that the United Kingdom (UK) vote to leave the EU hasn’t diminished their commitment to a successful conclusion.

TTIP has been criticized and opposed by unions, charities, NGOs and environmentalists particularly in Europe. There are fears that it could diminish regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations and to allow transnational corporations to assault European and US societies. The contents of the competing proposals as well as of the reports on TTIP negotiations are classified from the public. This has increased concern over the influence of powerful lobbyists and the potential ability of TTIP to undermine the democratic authority of local government.

According to a The Guardian report, a TTIP draft that was leaked shows “irreconcilable” differences between EU and the US in some areas, with the US demanding that EU compromise its “environmental, consumer protection and public health standards”.

A French environmental attorney was asked to comment of the sustainable development section of the leaked document. He described the proposed environmental safeguards as “virtually non-existent” when compared to the protection granted to investors, and that environmental cases accounted for 60% of the 127 ISDS cases already brought against EU countries under bilateral trade agreements in the last two decades, according to Friends of the Earth Europe.  American economist Joseph E. Stiglitz stated that TTIP could have a “chilling” effect on regulation and therefore “undercut urgently needed action on climate that the Paris agreement requires”. He says that industries that do not pay for the “social costs” of pollution in effect receive hidden subsidies, and that TTIP would give companies many more opportunities to sue governments over environmental protection mechanisms.

Campaigners against the controversial TTIP trade deal ‘’suspect that the UK will look to develop a bilateral deal with the USA that could end up being even more disastrous for labour protections, consumer standards and public services than TTIP was going to be” after it leaves the European Union. The UK has less negotiating power in talks with the US than the EU, due to the smaller size of the UK market. Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said the “right-wing lurch of Brexit” could result in Britain signing up to “TTIP on steroids”. “Alongside US lobbyists, the British government has done everything possible to push the most extreme and toxic version of TTIP,” he said.

It still remains unclear if TTIP will apply to states that are not in the EU but which are members of the common market, such as Norway. The Norwegian model has been viewed as a possible option for a post-Brexit Britain.

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Conor Mulvihill

Conor is Communications Assistant with the Irish Environmental Network. His background is in science and he has a masters in international relations.