Activists will rally in Westminster on Saturday as part of a Europe-wide protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which critics say will eradicate public services including the NHS and the BBC.
More than 1,000 people are expected to march against the treaty in London over the weekend, with many more holding demonstrations in UK cities and throughout Europe.
TTIP is a new trade deal between the European Union (EU) and the United States. The UK government backs the deal, claiming it could add billions to the economy by reducing regulations and other barriers to trade.
However, activist groups say that it would open up public services, including schools and hospitals, to American conglomerates, meaning TTIP could mean “privatization through the back door”.
“There is a significant danger with TTIP that large corporations will muscle in on the now compulsory tendering procedures for any public services,” London GP Naomi Beer told East London Online.
“The ethos of these corporations does not match our own public service ethos,” she said. “They are profit driven companies. Where there are limited funds and profit targets, the only way they can make money is by delivering a lower standard of service or getting less qualified staff or downgrading wages and conditions for their employees.”
Activists also warn that TTIP could mean profit-seeking companies may sue publicly-owned bodies if they thought there was an “indirect expropriation” of future profits.
Explaining how this could happen, technology writer Glyn Moody told RT that such companies with a stake in the UK health service could sue the government if it decided to pursue a program of nationalization.
“This clause would kick in and the companies that have taken these parts of the NHS will say then: ‘Hang on, you’re taking our future profits. We are going to sue you for billions of euro,’” he said.
“That is exactly what will happen with the NHS,” Moody said. “So basically privatization will be locked in. You couldn`t reverse it or rather you could reverse it, but you’d end up paying billions or possibly tens of billions of euro if you did so.”
Trade unions across the UK have warned that the TTIP deal would make privatization of services ‘irreversible’ if it allowed corporations to make decisions over public policy makers or the general public.
Speaking at the TUC in Liverpool on Wednesday, Unite Assistant General Secretary Gail Cartmail urged congress delegates to oppose the TTIP and rally support amongst people in the UK to demand Prime Minister David Cameron keep Britain’s health services out of the TTIP agreement.
“It is clear this government thought they could do this deal in secret – a deal that would mean the irreversible sell-off of our NHS to America,” Cartmail said.
“Wall Street financiers like Blackrock and Invesco are already heavily invested in the NHS – over 70 percent of new contracts are now in private hands. Over £11 billion of our money in the hands of casino capitalists,” she added.
Although TTIP is the largest bilateral trade deal ever brokered, it is currently being developed behind closed doors. However, the UK government denies the deal would mark a precursor to NHS privatization or the selloff of any other public service.
Nevertheless, British MPs have urged Cameron to remove the NHS from TTIP’s agenda, with Labour’s shadow health minister Andy Burnham saying that a “market” was not an adequate solution to healthcare in the 21st century.