“Taking back control”

When Brexiteers talk about ‘taking back control’, they often mean specifically regaining the ability to make our own trade deals. (There are other issues, but trade deals are often mentioned, and this is the main reason for the obdurate refusal to consider a customs union which would be the obvious solution to many of the Brexit problems). Superficially, making our own trade deals might sound like not such a bad idea (apart from the level of bureaucracy involved, duplicating what the EU already does). And indeed if it was just a question of setting import/export tariffs, there would be little reason to be concerned about it.

However, I suspect what they have in mind is considerably more than that – something more like TTIP. A deal, in other words, that would not just cover tariffs, but would also open all aspects of our economy to multinational corporations. This would include our education and health services. We have already seen the corrosive effect of private companies in these areas, but at least at present the government has the power to decide whether or not to grant contracts to such companies.  So we could be prohibited from any attempt to bring back services such as water supply, or the railways, into public ownership. Although it could be argued that EU regulations already impose such conditions, that is limited in many ways, and at least EU regulations are governed by a semblance of democratic control.

Furthermore, such a deal would impose severe limitations on the extent to which our government could restrict the activities of those companies – such as environmental regulations. We might end up being forced to accept fracking, for example. Any attempt to do so would result in the companies taking their case to a quasi-judicial ‘court’ (of members selected by the companies themselves). This is not fanciful scaremongering – we have already seen other countries being fined millions of dollars under similar deals.

And we would not able to back out of such an arrangement. Is this ‘taking back control? We would be permanently putting ourselves into the hands of the multinationals.

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