What are your MP's pressure points on TTIP? A report back from Westminster
03 December 2014
When 150 people decide to make a nuisance of themselves to their MPs, it can be a powerful thing. When a cross party panel of MPs tell them the best issues and tactics to approach others in their own parties, it gives them even more clout. That's what happened on Monday night at the Turning the TTIP Tide we held in Westminster Central Hall.
Drawing together Zac Goldsmith from the Conservative Party, Geraint Davies from Labour and Andrew George from the Lib Dems we got insights into the issues most likely to shift legislators’ opinions on TTIP.
Zac Goldsmith revealed the paucity of knowledge there is about TTIP amongst MPs. When we sift through various responses from MPs offices that have been forwarded to us we can see that the majority repeat their own parties’ centralised briefings and lines of response. With a Tory MP, said Zac, focus on the issue of sovereignty, appeal to their latent (or not so latent) Euroscepticism. It is difficult for a Tory to defend this deal which is being negotiated, still in a good deal of secrecy, on the behalf of every country in the EU, without the scrutiny and input of our elected representatives. He also suggested calling public meetings on TTIP to bring your MP to account. Make them feel obliged to attend, to debate and challenge their preconceptions and get their views on TTIP on public record.
Geraint Davies is solidly against TTIP and stands out from many in his party by a steadfast opposition to the whole deal. “Let’s trade but not trade away our dignity or sovereignty”. He tabled EDM 202 on the proposed new investor protection rules in TTIP and asks campaigners to encourage other MPs to sign it. He has tabled a Private Members Bill calling for better parliamentary scrutiny of international trade agreements, which gets its second reading in January. Geraint is also seeking support from other MPs for a parliamentary TTIP debate. He suggests that calling for your Labour MP to support his three initiatives is a good place to start turning their opinion on TTIP.
Andrew George pointed out that the three MPs represented at this meeting do not represent mainstream views on TTIP. There is clearly plenty more work to do to convince the political parties to abandon the deal. Although Andrew is not opposing TTIP, he wants a more informed, rational debate on TTIP in parliament. His advice on lobbying other Lib Dem MPs is to be calm and give rational arguments.
Green MEP Jean Lambert joined the fray with ideas of how to pressurise MEPs and the woeful state of scrutiny and knowledge that also exists in Brussels about the deal.
We also heard about the importance of involving councillors and local authorities – the procurement power of local authorities supporting local businesses and economies through their buying power is certainly in the sights of big business through TTIP.
At the end of the talks and discussions participants in the meeting broke down into groups determined by their MP’s political affiliation and drew up plans to turn the ideas of the night into actions.
You got a real sense of purpose and a determination that is often absent from meetings on political issue. The evening was a definite step forward in the campaign, and our representatives who support TTIP are faced with not simply opponents from the grassroots, but knowledgeable opponents. And they are the sort who should be feared.