The largest trade union in Britain has criticised the claim that government officials were reluctant to put protections for the NHS into a controversial trans-Atlantic trade deal.
Unite has been hugely opposed to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal between Europe and the US, and has particularly suggested that it poses a future to the public nature of the NHS.
The union has been campaigning against the deal, and opined that the European commission deems the notion of excluding the NHS from the impact of the agreement incompatible with its overall negotiating strategy.
While Unite has been hugely critical of TTI P, other organisations and credential individuals have been similarly dismissive, concerned about the potential impact of the deal.
Many political critics of the trade partnership suggest that the deal would effectively make privatisation of the NHS irreversible for future administrations.
There is also concern that private companies with links to NHS contracts will be able to win higher levels of compensation by effectively bypassing domestic courts.
Despite the fact that the major political parties have all backed the European Union, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbin has nonetheless criticised the agreement.
Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist recruited by the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, to advise the Labour party, earlier this month went as far as saying the UK could be better off leaving the EU if TTIP was signed.
Unite’s assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail, gave a statement to the media in which she outlined the concerns of the union about this trade deal.
“Given the importance of the NHS and the fierce debate taking place in the UK over the European Union, you would expect the EU commissioner for trade to act without delay to allay our concerns over the impact of TTIP on the NHS. It is time for Cecilia Malmström to make clear that the UK government can act to exempt the NHS from TTIP without opposition from the commission. The NHS is hugely important to people in the UK; Cecilia Malmstrom must answer these important questions without delay.”
And as the union continues to criticise the government’s position on both the NHS and TTIP, it is clear that meetings have been brokered between the two sides in the dispute.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills confirmed that a private meeting took place with Unite last month.
However, no statement has been made on the substance of this confab.
“The government has always been clear that protecting the NHS is of the utmost importance for the UK and will not be compromised for gains in any other part of the TTIP deal. We believe, as does the European commission, that provisions in the current TTIP texts and previous trade deals achieve this protection.”
TTIP has been reviled on both sides of the Atlantic by campaigners for offering too much power to the existing corporate sector.