The European Parliament is currently in the process of adopting a resolution on TTIP, aiming at giving a clear view to EU negotiators on what would or would not be acceptable to MEPs in the final TTIP deal. Only once the final text is presented to the European Parliament will MEPs have the chance to support or oppose the deal. Until this happens - and it will probably take years before negotiations are concluded - there is no TTIP to vote for or against. MEPs have no formal powers while trade negotiations are ongoing: we can only vote yes or no to the entire deal once negotiations are concluded. Crucially, we cannot stop negotiations either. So we will judge the TTIP by its merits, and in the meantime try to influence the negotiations so that all of our concerns are properly addressed. This is the purpose of this resolution.
Following the adoption on 28th May of a draft resolution by the European Parliament's trade committee, of which Jude is a member, all 751 MEPs were supposed to debate and vote the text in a plenary session of the European Parliament on Wednesday 10 June. But at the last minute the President of the European Parliament decided to postpone the vote. It will now take place in one of the next plenary sittings of the European Parliament, either in the second week of July or in the second week of September.
We were not consulted on the decision to postpone the vote, and we are not pleased with it. We were ready to vote on 10 June, and see no justification for delaying such a crucial debate while millions across Europe are waiting for us to adopt a firm position on TTIP.
We had managed to include strong messages to reflect your concerns in the draft resolution adopted by the Trade Committee. We have convinced all parliamentary groups to support our amendment calling for a full exclusion of all public services, including the NHS. We have secured support to reject any lowering of our health and safety, food safety and animal welfare standards. The resolution also pointed to national courts, rather than secret tribunals, to resolve investment dispute.
Yet the compromise tabled in the trade committee did not go far enough to fully reflect our opposition to Investment State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Because the compromise text adopted in committee did not explicitly reject ISDS, we decided to re-table our original amendment against ISDS in the plenary (amendment 27). Jude has written a piece for the New Statesman which explains in greater details our strategy in this respect:
We are quite hopeful that we can convince enough conservative and liberal MEPs to break rank and side with us against ISDS. But even if we a get a majority of MEPs to support our amendment against ISDS, there may still be a majority to reject the resolution overall: that's because parties such as UKIP or the Greens may decide to vote against the text regardless of what it contains, and we are still not sure how conservatives and liberals would vote in the end if ISDS is rejected.
Meanwhile, conservative MEPs tabled their own amendment to weaken the text adopted in committee. They want to remove a crucial part of the paragraph excluding public services from TTIP, which says that the exclusion "should apply irrespective of how the services are provided and funded". This sentence is key to ensure that all of the NHS is out of the deal, including parts that have been already privatised.
Labour's position is absolutely clear. All Labour MEPs met last week to discuss how we will vote on each amendment. Here is what we have decided:
- we will vote in favour of the amendments opposing ISDS;
- if the final text fails to explicitly reject ISDS, we will vote against it.
- we will vote against the conservatives' amendment to weaken the exclusion of public services.
- if the conservatives' amendment is adopted, we will vote against the resolution.
The European Parliament needs to adopt a strong position on TTIP. It's the only way we have to influence the negotiations because we will not be formally consulted until the very end of the process, once a deal has been agreed. This is why having a resolution matters so much. But we are not prepared to accept any kind of resolution: we need a text that clearly says that ISDS and public services must be out of TTIP. If we reach this outcome, this will send a very loud signal to the European Commission: get rid of ISDS and don't touch public services, or the European Parliament will veto the deal.
We'll keep you informed of future developments. In the meantime, please let us know if you need more information.