TTIP: A constitutional crisis?
Date: 9 June 2015
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a treaty which is being negotiated between the EU and USA. We believe it will give corporations power over our democratically determined food standards, environmental safeguards, workers rights and public services. It is also a corporate power grab which shatters our constitution safeguards.
Twin pillars support our unwritten constitution. The first of these is the sovereignty of parliament and the second is the rule of law, which means that everyone is equal before the law.
Parliamentary sovereignty describes the powers of parliament. A parliament receives its democratic mandate from the people, and it is therefore free to do anything it likes. To safeguard against abuses of power or to restrict them to one parliamentary term, each parliament cannot bind future parliaments, as its mandate from the people is only for the current parliament.
Normally a new government can withdraw from a treaty, but TTIP includes 20 year stabilisation clauses, so it intends to impede and restrict the actions of future parliaments, thereby breaking the concept of parliamentary sovereignty.
With ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement), TTIP will create secret tribunals, where corporations can sue our governments should their profits be impacted by legislation or public policy, such as a rise in the minimum wage. The treaty therefore creates a two tier legal system, a secret one for foreign corporations in which they can sue our governments, and a domestic legal system which is open to everyone else. The concept of the rule of law is therefore broken to its core.
International law takes priority over domestic laws, even constitutional safeguards, so as soon as TTIP is signed; our constitutional protections against this type of misuse and abuse of power are null and void.
TTIP, and the alphabet soup of similar trade treaties currently being negotiated, like CETA (The Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement) and TISA (Trade in Services Agreement), represent a real crisis for our constitution, and a fundamental change to the principals under which we are governed.
We therefore need to decide if the purpose of our constitution is merely to regulate the powers that are left after the multinationals have protected their profits against anything that could reduce them, or whether it has a role to play in preventing abuses of power? Is it strong enough to keep us all equal before the law?