The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been attracting a lot of negative publicity as campaigners against the deal grow in number. Commentators remain divided on whether the deal will ultimately help or hinder the UK economy, but while the debate rages on, one thing is becoming certain: councils will need to choose a side.
The implications of TTIP
The planned agreement between the US and the EU intends to remove all remaining trade tariffs between the two markets. It’s a bold move that could make a big difference to the economies of the wealthiest regions in the world, and represents a chance to stir stagnant European economies into life.
If businesses are able to increase exports through the removal of limiting tariffs, the positive impact on the economy will see councils among the first to benefit. A stronger economy will free government to stem the tide of budget cuts.
On the other side of the fence, campaign groups insist that the agreement poses a threat to European sovereignty. They fear that the removal of tariffs will increase the likelihood of unfavourable American systems, such as increased healthcare privatisation and use of GM crops, seeping into the UK.
While online petitions against TTIP may have had little direct impact on councils initially, authorities are now being encouraged to support citizen activists as their numbers grow.
Looking to create a united front, campaigners are calling for local authorities to declare themselves ‘TTIP Free Zones’ and stand in opposition to the agreement. It’s a movement buoyed by past successes in hampering national policy, particularly the anti-fracking movement in which campaigners pushed Lancashire County Council to stand up to Westminster.
Balancing risk and reward
While councils and politically-minded councillors must be aware of the interests and activities of their constituents, we believe it’s vital that they act prudently and keep long-term interests in mind.
On the one hand, working with citizens to influence national policy in a way that matches local needs and ambitions is an attractive prospect that furthers the cause of devolution. On the other, councils risk putting themselves permanently against Westminster, or thwarting a policy that could help safeguard front line services during economically precarious times.
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