TTIP Defeated; CETA Next

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is seemingly dead in the water, according to the German Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel who admitted this week that “negotiations with the United States have de facto failed”. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has also called for a “clear halt” to negotiations, and it now appears that the infamously insidious and anti-democratic treaty has been defeated.

Gabriel divulged that in 14 rounds of talks on the pact, the two sides have not agreed on a single item of the 27 chapters discussed, and he joins France’s Foreign Trade Minister Matthias Fekl in stating that the delay is the result of the United States’ unwillingness to make concessions as the EU has. Speaking to French radio, Fekl said that the agreement is “a bad deal”, and that “Europe is offering a lot and we are getting very little in return”.

It would be disingenuous, however, to claim that TTIP’s demise is the result of anything but unparalleled opposition. Indeed, almost 3.5 million Europeans signed a petition to oppose it, while a protest in Berlin last year drew 250,000 people. I too take some pride in this victory given that my video, which has a humble 45,000 views to date, may perhaps have played a minor role in the success of this campaign. Yet, while people power wins for now, another menacingly anti-democratic treaty is pending.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, is ostensibly a deal between the EU and Canada awaiting only final approval, which could yet arrive before Britain leaves the EU. Its purpose is to ease trade by reducing regulation on business through “regulatory cooperation”, or the removal of legislation that protects us from corporate exploitation. In practice, it would weaken our standards of food safety, workers’ rights and environmental regulation on the basis that they are “obstacles to trade”.

Like TTIP, CETA would allow any corporation operation in the EU or Canada, wherever its headquarters might be, to sue governments before an international tribunal whenever they fear that their “future anticipated profits” might be affected by new laws, preventing parliaments on both sides of the Atlantic from legislating to further protect their people.

In addition, the “ratchet clause” would “lock in” current levels of privatisation so that, for example, a government wanting to bring the railways or certain NHS services back into public ownership would be breaking the terms of the agreement, and exposed to a tribunal before a court of corporate lawyers. CETA, which claims to be a trade treaty, is in fact an attempt to circumscribe democracy on behalf of corporate power.

This is not a new phenomenon. Working in secret, and without a democratic mandate, corporate lobbyists and their captive governments have been seeking to impose such treaties for over 20 years. The Multilateral Agreement on Investment, like TTIP, was also destroyed by massive public protests in 1998. If parliaments reject CETA, they will return once more with the Trade in Services Agreement, which the EU is negotiating with the US and 21 other nations. It has already been endorsed by a Department for International Trade stating that: “The UK remains committed to an ambitious Trade in Services Agreement.”

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Reaction to Brexit

I woke up this morning dejected, feeling betrayed by, and ashamed of, what I believed to be an outward-looking, open-minded and tolerant country.

Some had at least reasoned motivations for voting Leave, such as abstract concerns about sovereignty, but the majority have seemingly been swept up by blind nationalism and vacuous rhetoric, by a fear and hatred of immigrants. This is despite the fact that immigrants are net contributors to the UK economy. The average immigrant is younger, better educated and healthier than the average British citizen. In other words, for every immigrant we let in, the country is richer, more able to pay for its health, education and welfare needs, and less dependent on benefits. They are exactly the demographic the UK needs, particularly given the UK’s birth rate, which is so low that even a decade of migration at the record high level of 330,000 would see an overall drop in the population.

But we don’t do facts and experts, not anymore. No, we prefer Nigel Farage, a man who within hours of victory had, like Ian Duncan Smith later, already conceded that at least one major propaganda claim was a lie. It turns out, not only do we do not send £350m per week to the EU, but we will also not be spending this “recovered” sum on the NHS as promised26809-7azh90. Our contribution was, in fact, £190m, and it bought us access to the free market. A free market to which Leavers such as Daniel Hannan have already said they would like to retain access. The trade off for such access? Cash payments to the EU and the acceptance of free movement of people. It sounds like the least bad outcome to me, although such a stitch-up over immigration would be a betrayal of those Leave voters who believed themselves to be “taking back control” of the borders in a campaign who primary focus was immigration. If you voted to reduce immigration, you’ll soon find yourself feeling as disillusioned as I do.

Vote Leave also criticised the EU’s subsidising of its poorer members, wholly missing the point that this was intentional. In living memory, many such countries were communist dictatorships shut off from the world behind the Iron Curtain. Today, in part thanks to the EU, these countries have parliamentary democracies and, enticed into our sphere of influence, they spend that money on our goods and services. Win-win, right? It was.

The truth is that we were the envy of Europe. schengen_3246041a-large_transtsnc2hkl-ggla3qrglwaqs9afkpjv-itlnhsbkwwizyWe had a best-of-both-worlds deal that other European Union member states resented. Far from burdened by bureaucracy, we sat at the top table and were instrumental in making the rules. We reaped the full benefits of the free market – without being in the Eurozone, and without being subject to the borderless travel of the Schengen Agreement. But that’s gone now – we’ve blown it. We will continue to pay for access to the single market, and we will continue to accept the free movement of people. Only now, we’ve surrendered our voice in the making of the rules.

Yet, today, I’ve heard people celebrating the British people sticking it to Brussels, or to the French or the Germans. Seriously, are we not over that yet? They are – they moved on a long time ago. In fact, the EU’s predecessor was established in 1951 with the expressed aim of making war “not merely unthinkable but materially impossible”. eu-signing_1999367cAfter the deaths of around 100 million military personnel and civilians in the First and Second World Wars alone, a lasting peace in Europe has been achieved. The signatories of its establishing treaty would consider 65 years of peace alone to be proof of the success of European co-operation after centuries of war. And, even with this success to its name, the EU is a baby in historical terms at just 65 years old. But we’re going to walk away from it all, and for good, why? Because it’s not perfect. At least not right now. Not in our own all-important life times. That is short-sighted, naïve and selfish.

Meanwhile, Putin is rubbing his hands together in glee as Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen congratulate us! I guess that’s the kind of company we wish to keep now.

Moving forward, we’ve got four years of an unelected right-wing Tory government and a level of initial economic damage that could affect us for at least the next ten years. fta-mapThe UK will survive in that time, but it won’t thrive. Not only are we forfeiting our trade deal with the European Union, we’re also heading back to square one in surrendering the trade deals that the EU already has with over 50 non-EU countries. You know, the ones we’re apparently not trading with! And why, “to regain our sovereignty”? For leading Brexiteers, sovereignty seems to mean reducing this country to a franchise of corporate capital, governed from overseas. It is not that leaving the EU is in itself an inevitable catastrophe, but to hand carte blanche to this government to negotiate that departure is to invite some disturbing possibilities.

For example, leaving Europe and renegotiating our trade agreements should enable us to leave behind treaties such as TTIP and CETA, which, under the pretence of facilitating trade, would release multinational corporations from democratic control, force the privatisation of public services, and make a mockery of parliamentary sovereignty. Yet, there are already calls for Britain to join NAFTA, which, using similar international tribunals, has allowed corporations to sue governments, to reduce to the lowest common denominator the laws protecting against predatory finance, labour rights, food adulteration and environmental protections, as well as blocking the passing of more progressive laws, and greatly restricting legislative sovereignty. Joining NAFTA, or connecting to it through another such agreement, would gravely threaten our sovereignty.

Before that, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will have to be invoked. Make no mistake, it is a punitive piece of law intended to discourage member states from leaving. We cannot renegotiate it. The reason Cameron wouldn’t invoke it, and now Johnson and Hannan are asking for time is because it is terrible for the economy. Gove, Farage and Johnson were lying when they repeatedly told you that we would get a better deal out of the EU. We will have no choice but to accept whatever deal they offer us.

In all likelihood, these difficult economic times to come will be labelled a transition period, and will result in further crushing austerity, privatisation of the NHS, and slashing of workers’ rights.bbc-resultr-map In Scotland, where every single counting area voted to remain in the EU, a second independence referendum is “highly likely”, sadly dividing our once ‘Great’ Britain further. And if that’s not enough, Sinn Fein is calling for a poll in both the north and south on a unified Ireland, a debate which may spark further potentially terrifying unrest. The implications of this decision, then, are huge, far-reaching and frightening.

Overall, I am struggling today to come to terms with the decision of many millions of English people, and I am ashamed of the picture it paints to the world, of a nation retreating from greatness to bury its head in the sand, pretending that the problems of the world have been left behind with it.

I won’t turn my back on Europe and its myriad opportunities, and I won’t blame somebody else for the shortcomings of my government simply because they were born on another piece of land, or because they have since chosen to cross an imaginary line onto a different piece of land. I’ve done it myself. I’ve lived abroad as an immigrant in the EU, and I was welcomed. It was the greatest experience of my life, and it is one that many people with similar aspirations will unfortunately now struggle to share.

On a brighter note, I am today headed to the European Championships. And when I get there, I’ll mix in the streets of Paris with my fellow Europeans and have a bloody great time with those people with whom we have far more in common than that which divides us. Winning a referendum is one thing; being on the right side of history is another. Europe, we truly were better together…


France’s Self-Interest in Europe

‘France’s attitude towards Europe since 1945 has always been one of pure self-interest.’ Discuss.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, France was focussed largely on preventing further war with Germany[1]. As the implementation of crippling treaties in the interwar period had only served to render Germany bitter and vengeful[2], France instead sought trade agreements with her former enemy and other European nations in an effort to ensure a lasting and peaceful co-existence[3]. Furthermore, it was hoped that, following a period of decolonisation and international humiliation, France could be propelled onto the world stage as the dominant power in a new Europe that would represent a ‘third way’ between the ideologies of the American and Russian superpowers[4]. This essay will address the foundation of modern Europe and the principle of supra-nationalism as well as France’s relations with NATO, the USA, and West Germany in order to argue that her relationship with Europe has been one primarily inspired by a desire to avoid further war and to regain her status as major power. Furthermore, this essay will demonstrate that it is in relation to this aim for the reassertion of grandeur that the French attitude towards Europe has thusly been dictated.

In light of her diminishing influence overseas, France turned to Europe for trade, and moreover, to reassert her influence on the world stage. Arguably the first major step towards the envisioned French-dominated Europe came in the form of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The ECSC was a supranational organisation established by the Treaty of Paris in 1951 through which France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries (collectively referred to as ‘The Six’) created a common market for coal and steel[5]. It was first proposed by French statesman Jean Monnet and foreign minister Robert Schuman, whose aim was to, “make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible”[6], as coal and steel would be essential to any potential war effort. He declared that the ECSC would be, “the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace”[7]. France, as the quotations demonstrate, therefore first conceptualised the ECSC in the pursuit of lasting peace and of an integrated and co-ordinated European bloc. This was, however, a bloc in which France sought to dominate[8], and the ECSC aided her in this enterprise both by ensuring the provision of coal from the Ruhr to French steel factories, and as a consequence, by limiting German rearmament[9]. Ultimately, the ECSC proved to be successful, not only in the prevention of further war in Western Europe, but also in that it led to further treaties and increased co-operation which would generate ₣5-6bn per year in trade with Germany[10]. Robert Elgie argues that, “While there is undoubtedly a strong ideological and political commitment to the EU in France, we should also recognise that France’s support for integration is a means by which leaders have tried to pursue French self-interest”[11]. In this respect, France benefited from increased European collaboration and from supra-nationalism in that her geopolitical and economic interests were met.

However, President de Gaulle would later recognise that a federalised Europe would ultimately thwart his ambition to make France the major power in a European bloc of sovereign states and as such, he was firmly against the rise of supra-nationalism[12]. In light of the inconsistency of supra-nationalism and French national interest, and despite his belief in the European Communities’ (EC) ability to ensure peace in Europe, he described a united Europe as a “myth” preferring “l’Europe des États[13]. Indeed, the European Defence Community (EDC) had failed to be ratified by the French National Assembly on the grounds that an international army would threaten national sovereignty[14], and that the decision to put the Supreme Commander of NATO (North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation) in charge of EDC operations would align Europe with the USA against the USSR[15]. As part of de Gaulle’s effort to offer a ‘third way’ between these two superpowers, the Fouchet Plan was instead proposed in 1961 which offered an alternative, intergovernmental approach which would better preserve state sovereignty and, in turn, French influence in Europe[16]. It failed because it was seen as a step back from the federalised integration desired by the Benelux countries, the leaders of which criticised it as, “opportunism of the worst sort, cloaking national ambitions in rhetoric of the highest international principle”[17]. Derek Urwin writes that, “In essence, they [‘the Five’] were worried about Gaullist ambitions for French domination in Europe”[18]. This accusation suggests that France’s attitude towards Europe has not been driven primarily by the ideological desire for integration and supra-nationalism, as was shared by other members of the European Economic Community (EEC). Instead, the Fouchet Plan was a proposal born out of French self-interest in that it sought to repel encroachment upon French dominance by preventing the ceding of power to a supra-national body.

The Fouchet Plan’s opponents also rejected its proposed common foreign policy accusing it of being in deliberate opposition to the directives of NATO[19], an organisation that many European nations had joined in response to the spread of Soviet communism, which, as a threat which had replaced the prospect of a rearmed West Germany[20]. NATO had already reduced French influence over European foreign policy through its absorption of the Western Union’s Defence Organisation (WUDO) in 1950-51[21]. Whilst the WUDO had been based an organisation based around the principle of mutual defence[22], its successor was an alliance against an ideological enemy led by its most fervent opponent, the USA[23]. This was therefore a period in which American interest was beginning to take precedence over French interest, and, in 1966, following a dispute with the USA in which France had unsuccessfully demanded a role of increased leadership, de Gaulle pulled out of the integral command structure of NATO and began withdrawing troops from the organisation[24]. This response in itself is evidence of the stubborn self-interest which, as shown, was particularly prevalent during de Gaulle’s presidency. Perhaps more importantly, however, NATO’s appeal in Europe signalled the growing influence of another, larger power in Europe – the USA. Europe, for the most part, seemed to be choosing the support of the USA over the foreign policy proposed by France and, it could be argued that, in turn, this prevented de Gaulle from establishing his ‘third way’[25].

In a further move to limit the influence of the USA, and to preserve French dominance in Europe, de Gaulle vetoed Britain’s ascension to the EEC in 1963 with his famous “non[26]. He cited Britain’s incompatible economy and conveyed a belief that the country would act as a “Trojan Horse” for the USA in Europe[27]. In 1967, he rejected a second British application as he again suggested that, sooner or later, Britain’s loyalties would be shown to lie not with Europe, but with NATO and the USA[28]. However, with French dominance of Europe already under threat from increasing supra-nationalism and the encroachment of NATO, it seems that de Gaulle vetoed British ascension because he simply did not want another major power to rival France and lessen her influence in ‘his’ European Community. At the time, other nations were beginning to fight French dominance, not only by rejecting the Fouchet Plan in favour of American support, but also by refusing the disproportionate benefits de Gaulle was demanding from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)[29]. De Gaulle therefore recognised that a British ascension would limit the extent to which France could dominate the bloc in order to reassert her grandeur and sculpt for herself the role of major power. The French attitude towards Europe then has been one of seemingly unwavering defence of national interest, as was again demonstrated by the events of the ‘Empty Chair Crisis’ in 1965-66, during which de Gaulle, reluctant to give up national sovereignty through Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) and France’s favourable terms of the CAP[30], ordered his ministers to abstain from the summit knowing that reform could not implemented without a unanimous decision[31]. Consequently, it seems that the French attitude towards Europe has not been one inspired by the ideological pursuit of integration, but has been dictated by national interest and the desire for regained power and influence.

The beginnings of the modern Franco-German dominance of the European Union are arguably found in the Elysée Treaty of 1963[32]. Often referred to as The Friendship Treaty, it was born out of good relations between French President, Charles de Gaulle and the German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer and it sought to ensure closer co-operation of the two countries[33]. West Germany had been allowed to rearm and to join NATO and it remained Europe’s industrial powerhouse, so much so that Peter Zeihan argues that, “without harnessing Germany’s economic muscle […] France could never have used Europe as a reliable platform”[34]. He therefore argues that this treaty aimed at improving Franco-German relations was born out of self-interest in that de Gaulle aimed to:

“Take advantage of Germany’s post-war guilt to sublimate German national ambitions completely within France’s European project. Use German markets to fuel French industrial expansion. Use German finances to feed French agriculture. And integrate the two states with the other community members to serve French interests”[35].

In practice, this treaty established regular summits between high-level officials of both countries in which to consult on important issues in an effort to achieve a common stance on foreign policy and cultural affairs[36]. This practice of bilaterally establishing a shared position prior to intergovernmental conferences has ensured their status today as the major agenda-setting powers of Europe[37]. Following a period of French dominance in Europe, it seems that it was only West Germany’s imminent economic surpassing of France that prompted de Gaulle to somewhat cut his losses and settle for a level of parity. Indeed, the treaty was criticised by other members of ‘The Six’ who described its return to the “outworn concept of the absolute sovereignty of states” as threatening to European integration and, “harmful to the Common Market […] and harmful to the internal equilibrium of NATO”[38]. Such implications were of course irrelevant to de Gaulle who preferred the intergovernmental approach and, as has been established, sought solely to ensure France’s dominant status. As Stephen Kocs describes it, “In de Gaulle’s schema, France alone would rise to great-power status and would do so by standing on Germany’s shoulders”[39]. As its critics suggest, France has even managed to convince West Germany to contradict the EEC’s founding ideology of integration in order to secure the continuation of her status as a major power. The creation of the Elysée Treaty suggests therefore that France’s attitude towards European co-operation has always been one dictated by her own national interest and a desire to reassert her grandeur.

Fredrik Wetterqvist, speaking about de Gaulle’s idea of France as a global power independent of the world’s two superpowers, argues that, “To a large extent, these ideas have been carried on throughout the Pompidou, Giscard d’Estaing and Mitterrand Administrations”[40]. Pompidou, for example, seized the opportunity to push for the preferred intergovernmental approach by establishing more frequent summits between EEC leaders in response to West Germany’s desire for an agreement with Eastern Europe, which for France, “revived the old spectres and phobias about German power”[41]. Once again, France had turned to Europe as a matter of urgency to cater for her own interests, here, to ensure her own security. Whilst de Gaulle had improved Franco-German relations, Pompidou feared the rise of a reunified Germany[42], and looked to Britain, previously rejected by de Gaulle, as a counter-weight and as a “proponent of careful, intergovernmental co-operation”[43]. Britain’s ascension was part of a shift in French defence doctrine to one highlighting solely the likely aggression of the USSR,, which later led to improved relations with NATO as Giscard d’Estaing argued that, as Wetterqvist states, “French security was dependent on the Allies”[44]. It is again apparent here that France’s attitude towards Europe was dictated by self-interest in that her rapprochement with NATO was of paramount importance for her security, and that the ascension of Britain, which had previously been rejected as a threat to French dominance, was now vital in preserving her influence. Further steps towards an intergovernmental approach were established by Giscard d’Estaing, such as the guarantee that the leaders would meet three times per year as the European Council[45]. Later, following the end of the Cold War and the breakdown of the Warsaw Pact nations, Mitterrand suggested the dissolution of NATO and recreation of the WUDO[46]. Furthermore, he has supported the European Union as a means of reining in post-reunification Germany and, through the European Central Bank and shared currency, ensuring that France benefits from its economic success[47]. Here, the prevailing themes of controlling Germany and achieving a preferable economic deal endure in importance, and this is further evidence to support the argument that central to French relations with Europe is French benefit from Europe.

In conclusion, the prevailing attitude of France towards Europe has been one of self-interest. In the wake of the Second World War and the ensuing decolonisation, France saw the advent of a more closely-integrated Europe as an opportunity to assert dominance and to become a major, influential power on the world stage. Furthermore, de Gaulle later pursued stubborn protectionism through, for example, the petulant tactics deployed in defending the preferable terms afforded to France by the Common Agricultural Policy. Similarly, such damage limitation was also on show in Franco-German relations during this period as France recognised her former enemy’s potential to outstrip her own economy and dominate Europe. Through the Elysée Treaty, de Gaulle manipulated German war guilt and exploited their neighbour’s economy in order to provide a level of increased co-operation and lasting parity which would ultimately lay the foundations of the modern Franco-German dominance of Europe. Whilst de Gaulle had earlier refused to allow Britain into ‘his’ EEC, they were later welcomed by Pompidou as a potential ally to check and balance the power of a resurgent Germany. Similarly, French fear of a reunified Germany on good terms with the East has led the rapprochement between France and NATO and the USA. Yet moreover, France has continued to endorse an intergovernmental approach which best facilitates the fulfilment of French national interest on a European scale. This recurrent opportunism and protectionism demonstrate clearly that the French attitude towards Europe has, since 1945, been one pursued purely in self-interest.

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