Unite urges politicians to act as explosive new legal ...

Unite urges politicians to act as explosive new legal advice lays bare EU trade deal risk to NHS

23 February 2016

Unite, Britain’s biggest union, is sending all UK politicians new and explosive legal advice setting out the “real and serious risk” that the EU trade deal TTIP poses to the future of the NHS. Read the advice published today here:

The union is presenting the advice to the government at a meeting with the department for Business, Innovation and Skills today (Tuesday 23 February).

The legal advice from Michael Bowsher QC a former Chair of the EU law committee of the Bar strongly recommends that the government takes concrete action to protect the UK’s health service. The advice flies in the face of the government continually stating there is no risk.

The UK government has refused to make public its legal advice on the impact of TTIP on the NHS. Francis Maude, the Minister responsible for TTIP, has admitted that he has legal advice concerning the impact of TTIP on the NHS but has blocked a freedom of information request to obtain the advice citing ‘legal professional privilege’.

The letter and briefing to all UK politicians will pile pressure on David Cameron to act, as well as trade negotiators who are meeting in Brussels this week for the latest round of TTIP talks.

Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail said: “For too long politicians have done too little to protect the NHS from the threat of irreversible privatisation. Now there is no excuse. The legal advice is clear,  TTIP is a real and serious risk to the NHS. Unless the UK gets robust protection, the US private health industry can override the will of Parliament on matters relating to our health.

“David Cameron has the powers to prevent EU bureaucrats from handing rights over our NHS to America .  The European Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström has even offered to change the wording of the TTIP agreement as far back as February last year. If David Cameron does not use the power to exempt the NHS, they will not be able to plead ignorance when TTIP is used to attack the NHS.”

The deal, known as TTIP, is being negotiated behind the closed doors of the European Commission, between EU bureaucrats and delegates from the United States. It is the largest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated and threatens to make privatisation of the NHS irreversible by giving the profits of corporations precedence over national lawmakers. Secret courts could grant American multinationals, or any firm with American investors, new powers to sue the government if it ever attempted to take privatised health services back into public ownership.

Unite is sending all UK MPs, MEPs, Scotland’s MSPs and Assembly Members from Wales and Northern Ireland the legal advice. The advice shows that;

  1. TTIP does pose a threat to future governments wishing to take the NHS back into public hands.
  2. TTIP gives investors new legal rights which go beyond UK and EU law as well as NHS contracts in the threat it poses to the NHS.
  3. It shows that a new right incorporated into the trade deal by the European Commission known as the  ‘right to regulate’ meant to appease critics could not be relied on to protect the UK Government from cases brought under TTIP if it wanted to cancel or take back NHS contracts.
  4. TTIP could allow private companies with links to NHS contracts to get higher levels of compensation than they would have under existing domestic and European law therefore promoting the risk of suppressing future healthcare legislation through the phenomenon of ‘regulatory chilling’.
  5. TTIP’s procurement rules could force the NHS to contract out services it wants to keep in house or spin off as ‘mutuals’


Contact: Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: 

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.