Britain’s future in the EU is stoking a great deal of contention, left and right, in a political debate that to all intents and purposes is polarizing and confusing.
One point of departure worth thinking about are recent proposals for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which threatens vital protections for workers, environmental and democratic rights that the EU ensures. Without European solidarity, we are powerless to defeat the corporate power-grab and protect the sovereignty of our governments. In Europe, we can stand in solidarity with other Europeans and demand for a veto on these plans. It is increasingly clear, as the polling day looms, that we must campaign against TTIP, rather than against Europe.
TTIP legislation is worrying for a lot of reasons. Firstly, it has been drafted by an isolated few who have ignored the concerns of 3.4 million anti-TTIP campaigners, raising the case that the policy is not in the public interest. Secondly, the actual content of the legislation is changing how corporations can interact with sovereign governments and the political system by the rankest means: dubious definition. In sum, it reduces the regulatory barriers to trade by big business – legislation that protects vital interests like human and environmental rights – and grants powers to corporations to sue governments if their policies cause a loss of profits, as well as making further inroads to the wholesale privatization of public services: ‘TTIP-ing over democracy’ as one placard put it.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Tories have backed and been the key driving force behind some of the most extreme versions of TTIP, so we are not guaranteed to be exempt from its punitive and unusual rules even if we left the EU in protest. It is easy to think the best way to deal with unsavoury policies like TTIP is a full scale retreat from Europe. But in fact, in a Brexit scenario, dozens of free trade agreements like TTIP would be signed. It’s likely that we could end up with something even worse. Trade deals are often passed in Britain with little debate and the vision of a Brexit Britain is still one ruled by big business.
Therefore, it is disingenuous for the Leave campaign to cite TTIP as a reason to leave. Moreover, the EU has fostered an enormous amount of solidarity between member nations who don’t want to be subject to super-imposed domination by corporations. It is clear we are capable of resisting from within. Besides, we are more likely to find a better policy informed by the common interest if we remain in a dialogue with other countries. Being a member of the EU means the UK and other countries can benefit fully from being able to co-operate in a discussion about our common interest, and it is clear our common interest as a continent consists in not being ruled from a small island of companies.
So whilst it is true that TTIP is symbolic of Europe’s problems (the undue influence of big business in the democratic process), it is equally true that it is only through co-operation with other citizens of Europe that we can stop big business destroying our democratic values and constitutions. The Leave campaign will turn Britain in to a paradise for big business, whereas in Europe, we will be able to join 28 other nations in vetoing the threat to participatory democracy.
Until the power-brokers accept there are serious amendments to be made to they are leaving us to conclude that a piece of legislation ostensibly designed to foster economic harmony is in fact designed to increase the power of unaccountable actors over our lands, lives and public services.
It is they, not the EU, who are the biggest threat to a vibrant, participatory democracy in the UK.