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18 Dec, 2014 14:23

TTIP won’t lead to NHS privatization, Deputy PM claims

TTIP won’t lead to NHS privatization, Deputy PM claims

The controversial EU-US trade deal, TTIP, would not be backed by the British government unless national control of public services is guaranteed, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has insisted.

The government would ensure EU negotiators provided written agreements guaranteeing there would be no threat to the NHS from private companies, Clegg said.

Speaking to students in a debate organized by Bite the Ballot on Tuesday, Clegg said he was aware of fears that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would undermine the National Health Service.

In an attempt to assuage anxiety over the agreement, he said he would only endorse TTIP if it was “crystal clear” that the British government would maintain control of public services.

“We, as a government, are making sure that that is clearly there in writing by the EU negotiators and the European Commission for us to see, that there is no threat to the NHS, which I know is a fear that has been raised,” Clegg told the debate.

“I would never endorse TTIP if that were the case. I think that if I want my children and my grandchildren, if I want future generations to live in a world where the standards are set by our hemisphere, in Europe and across the Atlantic in America, and not just all set on the other side of the planet in Asia or Latin America, then having America and Europe sort out some things together, I think, is in the long term interests for us as we all move ever more in this globalized world,” he said.

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (AFP Photo)

Proponents of TTIP say the deal to remove trade barriers between the EU and US will drive growth and create jobs. Research shows that TTIP could inject €120 billion into the EU’s economy, the European Commission claims.

Campaigners fear the trade agreement, which is being negotiated behind closed doors by EU and US representatives, will enable private companies to sue governments over laws that limit their operations through a controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause.

The German government objected to the inclusion of such a clause in a letter to the EU Trade Commission in March.

UK Trade Minister Lord Livingston rebuffed fears over the agreement in September, speculating that criticism of TTIP is fuelled by anti-American sentiment. The NHS was not excluded from the agreement because the health service would “not see any change to its existing obligations,” he said.

But speaking to RT, War on Want executive director John Hilary said: “Nick Clegg’s reassurances are worthless.”

The anti-poverty campaign group is a vocal critic of the trade agreement, arguing that it poses a threat to labor and environmental standards and will cost the EU 1 million jobs.

A YouGov poll conducted on behalf of War on Want in August found that 39 percent of the British public believe that the TTIP “would be bad for the UK.” Just 13 percent said it would have a positive effect.

The same poll found that 42 percent of people don’t trust the government to protect the NHS from privatization.