Artists Against TTIP

Artists Against TTIP

Date: 2 July 2015

When theatre director Carrie Cracknell heard about the threat the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) poses to us all, she decided to use her artistic connections to try and give TTIP the public scrutiny it deserves. If any trade deal needs public scrutiny and media exposure, it is TTIP.

TTIP is a dangerous trade deal being negotiated behind closed doors and set to reduce hard won protection on food, the environment, health and safety and workers’ rights. It is an opportunity for big business to get its hands on public services and use new powers to sue governments if their decisions in the public interest which harm business profits. Incredibly similar powers have been used by tobacco corporation Philip Morris to sue the Australian government for the harm to profits that plain packaging in tobacco may bring.

Many organisations have been working together across the UK, the EU and the USA to raise awareness of TTIP. Over 2 million EU citizens have signed a petition calling on TTIP negotiations to stop – the largest of its kind in history. There have been vibrant days of action and local TTIP action groups springing up all around the UK.

Nonetheless TTIP remains an obscure and complicated subject. Its name is unwieldy. The content of the deal is secret. The language of trade agreements is legalistic and technical. Our concerns are about what could happen, based on leaked drafts, because we know that if we wait to campaign until the deal is finalised it will be too late to change it.

Artists Against TTIP will help us put TTIP in the spotlight. When one of the dastardly Malfoys from Harry Potter (aka Helen McCrory), Thomas Cromwell (aka Mark Rylance) and Sherlock’s baddy Moriarty (aka Andrew Scott) get together to warn you about TTIP, you might want to take them seriously.

McCrory and Rylance are just two of a significant bunch of artists attending the launch, which is being hosted by Carrie Cracknell, Vicky Featherstone, Juliet Stevenson, David Lan and Vivienne Westwood. They have already produced a film calling for an end to TTIP negotiations.

There is a long tradition of celebrity endorsements for campaigns. And this launch comes almost 30 years to the day that Live Aid was launched, the most famous of them all. Campaigners are divided over working with celebs. We have seen messages watered down to become palatable for the PR agencies used by the famous faces. Critical opportunities to really challenge or change something have been obscured by pop concerts held around the same time. But celebrities have been able to get coverage for issues which would otherwise go unnoticed altogether.

I have worked closely with Carrie Cracknell, and others, on the launch of Artists Against TTIP and been impressed by their uncompromising stand against TTIP. They have not come together to protect the arts industry in which they operate but because of the wider detrimental impact of TTIP to society as a whole. They are committed to using their artistic skills and personal profiles to inform the public about the perils of TTIP and crucially get TTIP the media coverage it deserves.

On the few occasions when TTIP has been scrutinised, the failings of the deal have been apparent for all to see. Although MPs are not allowed to see the TTIP negotiating documents, public pressure led to the Business Innovation and Skills select committee of MPs holding an inquiry on TTIP in the last parliament. After several sessions of evidence, MPs agreed with campaigners that the case for giving corporations new powers to sue governments has not been made and that the UK government does not have sufficient evidence to claim TTIP will benefit the UK.

Artists Against TTIP is a powerful initiative which will help us all defeat TTIP and protect public services, hard won standards and democracy. Global Justice Now and War on Want are proud to be supporting the launch today.