Here is my speech on Thursday 18 July 2013 in the debate on the proposed European Union -United States Trade and Investment Treaty
Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield). I agree entirely with what he said and I particularly endorse his remarks about public procurement and the importance of the national health service. It is vital that debates on this issue make it clear that the trade agreement will not be used as a way of justifying the privatisation policies of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition, by blaming it on the requirements of some European-US deal.
Julian Smith: I reiterate the question I asked earlier. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the Labour party in government regularly used the private sector to deliver better services, where necessary, in the NHS?
Mike Gapes: I accept that because of the problems we had when we came to office, we had to get extra capacity. My constituents in Ilford benefited from the independent treatment centre that was established on the site of King George hospital. They had operations on their knees and noses that would not have been available previously because of the lack of capacity in the NHS. I make no apology for the fact that my constituents benefited from the investment and policies of the Labour Government, but that is not what this debate is about.
I want to make three points. First, in an earlier intervention I referred to the European Union-South Korea free trade agreement which, as the Foreign Secretary recognised in the House a few months ago, has not just been of great benefit to the European Union as a whole, but the removal of 97% of the tariffs that existed between Korea and the European Union led to a significant increase in British exports to Korea.
Mr Cash: I alluded to that in my speech. After inquiry, the European Scrutiny Committee was informed that it was difficult, if not impossible, to make a true comparison between the apparent benefits to the EU in general and the advantages to the UK individually, apart from in the car industry, where there appeared to be a distinct benefit.
Mike Gapes: On 23 April, the Foreign Secretary said:
“The free trade agreement with South Korea eliminated nearly 97% of tariffs, and some British businesses are now enjoying a huge increase in exports to South Korea as a result. We want to see the same thing happen on an even greater scale in relation to the United States.”—[Official Report, 23 April 2013; Vol. 561, c. 743.]
I suggest the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash)has some comradely discussions about these matters with the Foreign Secretary in the next meeting of the 1922 committee or somewhere else.
I want to emphasise a point made by the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) about the significance of reducing the regulatory obstacles. Many of my constituents work in financial or banking institutions in London. TheCityUK has published a paper saying that it
“strongly supports the efforts being made in the US and the EU towards a Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership.”
It believes that that needs to be comprehensive and should cover all aspects of the economy, and it highlights the absurdities of different regulatory regimes, the additional costs this imposes on both sides of the Atlantic and the serious delays involved.
In another publication, British Influence highlights how the pharmaceutical industry has completely different requirements on the acceptability and availability of drugs in the US and Europe, meaning that drugs that have already gone through one rigorous testing procedure must then go through another one. That is not necessarily anything other than an obstructive measure to preserve markets for certain companies by squeezing out competitors. If it can compete on quality—and our pharmaceutical industry is certainly high quality—industry in Europe and Britain will be well capable of competing on a level playing field in an American market.
There will be people in the US, as in Europe, who will try to resist and obstruct these measures. We have heard some of those voices today, unfortunately. The reason for that is partly ideological, but it is also linked to pork-barrel politics, the two-year congressional election cycle and all the other difficulties people have in winning public office in the US, so this will not be an easy process, and these negotiations will take time; it is a bit optimistic to think they could be over in two years, and they will not be helped if the EU adopts a minimalist position or says it wishes certain items to be taken out of the negotiations at the start. That will play into the hands of those in the US who also want to play that game.
It is a bit like the Conservative party’s position on renegotiating our membership of, and repatriating powers from, the EU. We cannot take things à la carte, and in the negotiations between the EU and the US, we will not get all we want; it will be a difficult process, and it could well be undermined significantly by diversions, such as those relating to Scotland, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Gordon Banks) referred. It could also be undermined, however, if British negotiators, obsessing about other issues, divert their efforts and energies away from getting the best deal for British business and investment and trade in the United States, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central pointed out earlier.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister said that
“if Britain weren’t in the EU you would not directly benefit from an EU/US trade deal”.
That is the fundamental point. If we embark on a process of renegotiating terms with, or withdrawing from, the EU, we will damage our position within an internal EU process and our long-term relationship with the US. As the US President, the ambassador and others have made absolutely clear, the US believes it to be in the interests of its co-operation with Europe that the UK play a full part within the EU. If we want to get an EU-US trade and investment treaty, we need to support it wholeheartedly.