In an important vote today in the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, Labour MEPs Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen successfully championed the concerns voiced by thousands of North East citizens over a possible trade deal with the US.
As negotiations between the EU and the US for a trade agreement (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership - TTIP) are expected to enter their final phase in the second part of 2015, the European Parliament is preparing a major resolution to set its priorities and redlines. The European Parliament's Committee on Petition adopted today with an overwhelming majority (22 votes in favour, 2 against) a preparatory report for this resolution, specifically concentrating on citizens' concerns.
The negotiations have triggered a major public debate across the UK, in particular with respect to the NHS and public services, a possible handover of power from the state to multinational corporations, as well as the quality of standards, in particular with respect to food and labour rights. The overall lack of transparency of the negotiations have also been heavily criticised by constituents in the North East.
Jude Kirton-Darling, who led the negotiations for this report on behalf of the 191-strong group of European Socialist and democrats MEPs, said after the vote:
"Today we've ensured that the voice of the thousands of constituents that have been reaching out to us across the North East will be heard in the European Parliament's debates on TTIP. The Petitions Committee was set up exactly for that purpose, to bring Europe closer to the citizens it serves, and I am glad to see that we were successful in making it work on such a crucial issue".
Paul Brannen, who took part in the vote today, added:
"Despite the opposition of the main conservative party, we manage to get virtually all of our amendments adopted thanks to the support we secured from European Greens and the defection of UKIP's Italian allies. The committee officially called the Commission to reject private tribunals in TTIP, to publish every document related to the negotiations and to refuse any change to food safety regulations."
The amendments adopted today will now be referred to the Parliament's lead International Trade Committee, and be put to a vote on the 28th of May.