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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Sovereignty ‘at risk’ from EU-US trade deal: UK in danger of surrendering judicial independence to multinational corporations, warn activists

Belfast Telegraph

The UK's freedom to tackle climate change, protect consumers or guarantee a publicly run NHS could be jeopardised by a trade deal being negotiated between Europe and the US, MPs and pressure groups have warned.

Under a draft plan supported by the European Commission, multinational firms would be given wide-ranging powers to sue EU governments that adopt public policies deemed to “discriminate” against free trade.

Campaigners warn that similar trade deals elsewhere in the world have resulted in countries being sued for adopting policies in the public good – such as anti-smoking measures – because they were deemed to penalise foreign investors. 

These include Australia which is currently being sued by Philip Morris for introducing plain cigarette packaging, and Canada, which is being sued by US drugs firm Eli Lilly for revoking patents on drugs on the grounds that their benefits may have been overstated.

Zac Goldsmith, the Tory MP, told The Independent: “It is hard to see how this won’t seriously jeopardise the sovereignty of the UK Government and its legal system. Disputes between companies and legislators should always be dealt with by British courts.”

More than 200 organisations across the EU, including the TUC, Greenpeace and War on Want, have written a joint letter to European and American trade negotiators demanding the removal of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process from the final treaty.

“ISDS is a one-way street by which corporations can challenge government policies, but neither governments nor individuals are granted comparable rights to hold corporations accountable,” they wrote.

Campaign groups in Britain are due to put their concerns to the Department of Business on Wednesday, while an Early Day Motion in Parliament, signed by MPs from all parties, calls for the trade talks to be frozen until the issue is resolved.

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