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Monday 16th
posted by Peter Lazenby in Britain

Legal expert warns public fears on TTIP are ‘well founded’

A PUBLICLY owned health service will be a thing of the past if the government goes ahead with its plans to sign up to an international trade deal forcing public services to be put out to tender.

Legal advice commissioned by union Unite from an expert in EU law and healthcare services confirmed today that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will force health services into the private sector unless Prime Minister David Cameron uses a veto to exclude the NHS from the deal.

On Saturday, Valentine’s Day, thousands of people took to the streets in towns and cities across Britain to voice their love for the NHS and to oppose health-service cuts and privatisation.

But widespread public support for the NHS to remain a publicly owned and publicly run service appears to be having little effect on the coalition government.

The expert advice identifying the peril facing the NHS came from Dr Kyriaki-Korina Raptopoulou.

Her report, The Legal Implications for the NHS of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, warned that a future government renationalising the NHS would be forced to compensate privateers for lost profits as well as market value of any assets — with firms able to bypass British courts because of arbitration rules.

The NHS is included in the scope of TTIP and without a full and clear exemption it will be subject to the agreement.

Dr Raptopoulou said her study showed that “the concerns of the British people about the potentially negative impact of TTIP on the NHS are clearly well founded.

“TTIP generates a number of serious concerns, the British government and the European Commission should take them seriously. They should not be dismissed as ‘myths’ or ‘scaremongering’.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the report confirmed the union’s worst fears — and demanded that Mr Cameron use his veto to exclude the NHS from the agreement.

“There is no doubt that NHS services are being included in TTIP,” he said. “As a result there is the clear risk of irreversible privatisation because the trade deal will give US corporations or investors the right to sue our government if it ever tried to take back services into public ownership.

“The British government has no mandate to hand new rights over our NHS to US corporations and their lawyers. We urge David Cameron to act.”

Saturday’s Love the NHS rallies took place in at least 18 towns and cities in a day of action instigated by campaign group 999 Call For The NHS.

In Hartlepool 400 people rallied against the run-down of the town’s University Hospital — accident and emergency and intensive units have been axed — in a protest backed by Teesside People’s Assembly.

Campaigners will also take to the streets today to protest at EU trade comissioner and TTIP lead negotiator Cecilia Malmstroem’s visit to London to lobby dignitaries. She is speaking at Europe House, Smith Square, SW1 from 2.30pm.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, who is due to meet Ms Malmstroem today, admitted yesterday that “more transparency” was needed around the secretive trade pact, saying he would push for disclosure of treaty text “where our interests are not harmed” by doing so.