Part Six: TTIPping the Balance
Something happened in the run-up to Brexit, whose consequences will Trump anything in store for little Englanders in the delusion they’re taking back control from Europe.
Though not as proactive as say the French, the British public can be galvanised to peaceful collective action, no matter how they may be infiltrated by unethical agents provacateurs luring them into police traps. One of the biggest nationwide protests saw tens of thousands congregate in central London recently to protest Britain leaving the EU, which reflected the three million petitioners demanding a second referendum.
It’s not been quantified, but a fair proportion of the Remainers were considering the detrimental effects on British life from the TTIP policies promoted by a succession of US Presidents. The Brits marched against that, too! The catchy name stands for The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
It’s sadly ironic that just as the public is waking from its Thatcherite torpor, their voices of protest are increasingly ignored – both by government and increasingly by the media.
Back in April, President Obama addressed Parliament and met with former PM David Cameron. A huge slice of his agenda was to secure British support for a TTIP roll-out. As usual with US/UK head-butts, everything was contained within the chamber labelled Special Relationship.
Before we examine the ethics of TTIP, here’s a heads-up: Surprise! There is no “special relationship.” Nope, there’s the same kind of creeping US imperialism in the UK as can be witnessed in every other sovereign state which has been strong-armed into putting US interests first.
The balance certainly has shifted since WWII. Not that the tactics back then were any more ethical. Released Churchill papers reveal that the UK hid strategic info from Roosevelt, and both American and Britain colluded to keep their ally Stalin out of the loop. But ever since, for the US, Britain has been perceived, not as an equal partner, but as “a territory.” That’s what global film companies call all their overseas markets. Kinda hints at who thinks they’re the Big Cheese and who the Little Mouse.
Consider Trident and the recent Parliamentary vote to retain its Scottish base. Arguments on the pro side glossed over the fact that the US controls every single aspect of using the UK’s so-called independent nuclear capabilities. In fact, the US knows exactly where each sub is at any one time, and it would be impossible for any independent action to be sanctioned without prior US approval. And that’s according to the former head of the army, recently interviewed on Radio 4.
America operates out of six RAF bases in the UK, including RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire. It’s one of the largest military communications centres in Europe, and handles 30% of all US military traffic within Europe. And it’s about to get bigger; construction has already begun to transform it into an Analytic Centre, with direct communication with GCHQ.
At the news that the US will reduce overseas military spending by pulling the MoD’s strings on a joint intelligence initiative in her Parliamentary constituency, Secretary of State Andrea Leadsome ignored the foreign policy implications of RAF Croughton’s new role. Instead, she trotted out the same old/same old platitudes about the Special Relationship, calling it “excellent news.”
I mention all this as an intro to the dubious ethics interwoven with a commitment to TTIP. And a shadier deal could hardly be found under a 200 year-old oak tree.
For far too long successive American party policies have assumed not only a compliant Great Britain, but increasingly a compliant Europe. The so-called Washington village in turn has paid less attention to the dwinding sector of the electorate who actually give a damn about what occurs outside their borders. For the majority, everwhere that isn’t America, is somewhere “over there.”
Believe me, I grew up in the US and despite all the changes since I left, most Americans – if they think at all about the rest of the world – still assume everyone who isn’t American wishes they were, wishes they could live in America, and looks to America to solve their problems for them. Even if that means pre-emptively invading another country [not always based on accurate intelligence], and flooding the media with post-facto justifications.
TTIP, too, represents a kind of invasion. This one, however, is purely business-led and negotiated behind doors so closed there’s not a molecule of oxygen for anything ethical. The initiative purports to be a free-trade mechanism. In fact, it’s a rehaul of the very meaning of the protective regulatory powers which provide oversight to trading abuses.
Included under that heading are all those inconveniences that global private enterprise has been fighting against, lobbying against for many years. As governments have oozed to the right, the rise and rise of multi-nationals has assured legislation to spray-to-kill those gnats and gadflies that put barriers in their way.
We’re talking about unionisation, about laws to protect the safety of food and water and air, about sanctions against corporate malfeasance. We’re talking about the wholesale subjugation of human rights for the obscene enrichment of The Mogul Class.
Please, please can we remember that the opposite of human rights is human wrongs.
Pre-Brexit, the US was counting on its old pal divide-and-conquer in dealing with the nations of the EU. Tactically, the poorer countries were ripe for eco-bribes, for example to counter the resistence to GM crops. US negotiators had been persuaded by a then-confident Cameron that Britain would use its influence to help smooth the TTIP way.
Now that Brexit means Brexit, though, America is faced with the dilemma that even if it wins the TTIP arguments with the UK, it still has Europe to contend with. And until Article 50 is signed, sealed and delivered, TTIP can’t be. No wonder they want May, Johnson et al to hurry up.
Apart from the TTIP talks being conducted in such an undemocratic way, Britain really has to prepare for some social earthquakes. The first of these is undoubtedly how a relaxation of global trade rules will shake up the NHS.
We know how many of the current government would endorse such a schism as the direct pathway to privatisation. Under TTIP, the inviolate walls of the NHS primary raison d’etre would be flattened by hedge funds and allied takeovers. Some would be subtle, others blatant, and all turning the magnificent concept of a National Health Service free to all at the point of need into a nostalgic dream.
Another equally worrying TTIP invasion comes with putative British deals with the banking sector, seeking to circumvent the tighter financial restrictions in the US after they set off the 2007/8 crisis still affecting the rest of the world. TTIPpers have a beady eye on the Freedom of the City of London; and with the stakes so high, fair play has been excluded from the room.
Ethics has also been banished from the forward march of TTIP on the global jobs market. With characteristic hypocrisy, coalitions of government officials and business spokespeople spout rhetoric of British jobs for British people.
[Americans, of course, have their own carbon-copy versions of such meaningless pledges.] But the logic of TTIP assures the enhanced freedom to destabalise industries in some countries either by relocating or by re-drafting employment legislation to the detriment of the work force.
Political strategists must be aware of the cycle such policies engender. In the confused blurring of economic migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, social unrest can only escalate. Though government PR people seek to placate racial tensions, reports indicate the rise in hate crimes and ethnic attacks since Brexit.
TTIPers can use this to their advantage by forcing through more and more legislation of social control. Perhaps that is TTIP’s most insidious effect – the threat to democracy itself. Plans are afoot for companies to sue governments which seek to interfere in their pursuit of profits.
I can’t pretend that the EU can be wholly successful in resisting TTIP, just as it’s already backing away from its once-united stand against GM crops. But compared with the resistence it can offer from its collective structure, Britain on its own is at the mercy of the current Tory government. From May on down, their ability to examine and assess the implications of TTIP is almost devoid of intellectual rigour, and tempted by vested interest advice and council.
I can’t imagine a state less interested in a Platonic ideal such as Ethics. There can’t be any of that tainted lot who’d even understand why J.K. Rowling has tumbled off Forbe’s list of billionaires. Herself a product of the UK’s benefit system as she pursued her writing while a single mum, Rowling has founded a charity aiding disadvantaged kids in Eastern Europe, and has given away over £150 million to causes including single parent families and those who might take control over their own lives.
Let’s hope the frazzled Left might rediscover the basics of their collective ethical responsibilities. Who will don the invisible mantle so intricately woven by Mr Plato?
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This post was written by outRageous!