The NHS and public health, transport, broadband, pensions, migration and the refugee crisis, how to tackle racism and to promote gender equality in advertising, sport, and the workplace. These are some of the issues I’ve been discussing in Parliament over the past couple of weeks. No doubt, they are also amongst the many and varied issues that in recent weeks have been argued will be directly or indirectly affected by our forthcoming decision over the UK’s membership of the European Union.
In just a few weeks’ time, on 23 June, every voter will have a choice to make about our future EU membership. In or out. This is such a vast and wide ranging debate and to be clear – it is not possible for either side to be certain of the impact that a decision to leave could have on our day to day lives here in the UK.
One argument from leave supporters is that ‘Brexit’ could protect us from the many negative influences of TTIP, the EU- US trade deal. I disagree.
I do have strong concerns that the unremarkably titled ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’ poses a serious threat to our NHS and other public services by opening them to the risk of American privatisation. That is why I tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech demanding new protection for the NHS, and last week pressed the Government to make it clear that they will reject any treaty that puts the interests of big business ahead of ours.
Forced to accept my amendment, it is the first time since 1924 that a government has accepted a motion of regret to a Queen’s Speech - an unprecedented humiliation. It is clear from the support my amendment received that a majority in the Commons, as well as in the country, do not accept the government’s position on TTIP.
The truth is, the Tory Government have not only turned a blind eye to the warnings of the unions, campaigners and MPs, including many on their own backbenches, who have warned them about the danger that TTIP poses. Whilst other EU countries have been adding their reservations to protect their powers and interests, our government have actively encouraged TTIP’s pro-privatisation and foreign business friendly form. Disturbingly, in 2014 the Conservative Trade Minister actually lobbied the European Commission to try to make sure TTIP kept its Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions – the unaccountable international courts that allow foreign investors to sue governments for things like increases in the minimum wage.
So, I stand in direct contrast to those Tory Eurosceptics eager to exploit this issue. Conversely, it is my fear that, if Britain left the EU, far from protecting our public services like the NHS, transport or education, our own Government, driven by its ideological belief in privatisation, would subject us to even worse trade deals, with less of a voice to challenge them.
I believe that Britain is much stronger as part of the EU. I will be voting remain on 23 June, to protect jobs, growth and investment as well as workers’ rights and I urge local people who care about these issues to do the same.