Skip to content

All-party motion in UK expresses concern about investor-state provisions

The Independent reports, “Britain’s freedom to tackle climate change, protect consumers or guarantee a publicly run NHS (National Health Service) could be jeopardised by a trade deal being negotiated between Europe and the US (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP), MPs and pressure groups have warned. Under a draft plan supported by the European Commission, multinational firms would be given wide-ranging powers to sue EU governments that adopt public policies deemed to ‘discriminate’ against free trade.”

The examples cited in the article include:

  1. “In 2011 Philip Morris sued the Australian government for restricting logos, branding, colours and promotional text on tobacco packets. The company claims the move breaches Australia’s bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong. The case is yet to be resolved.”


  2. “Canada, which is being sued by US drugs firm Eli Lilly for revoking patents on drugs on the grounds that their benefits may have been overstated.”


  3. “The Slovak Republic was forced to pay $22m (£13.4m) damages after the government reversed the liberalisation of its health-insurance market.”


  4. “These clauses could thwart attempts by a future government to bring our health service back towards public ownership.”


  5. “ISDS (investor-state dispute settlement) provisions could be used to prevent the EU from restricting imports of US diesel made from polluting tar sands in Canada.”

Tory MP Zac Goldsmith says, “It is hard to see how this won’t seriously jeopardise the sovereignty of the UK Government and its legal system. Disputes between companies and legislators should always be dealt with by British courts.” Labour MP John Healey says, “It is not clear ISDSs are justified at all when the agreement will be struck between countries with some of the most advanced and stable legal systems in the world.” And Green Party MP Caroline Lucas says, “(The move would) overturn decades of laws and regulations formed through democratic processes on both sides of the Atlantic.”

The article notes, “An Early Day Motion in Parliament, signed by MPs from all parties, calls for the trade talks to be frozen until the issue is resolved.”

Similar to the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew has commented, “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, like the proposed Canada-EU deal, will include strongly worded and enforceable chapters on investment protection, food and health regulations, market access, procurement, state-owned enterprises, etc, but cosmetic filler on environmental protection, labour rights, and the ‘right to regulate.'”

Investor-state scenarios that could be faced in the UK and Europe under CETA include:

  1. If England opted to stop paying higher water rates and brought its privatized water services back into the public realm. Canadian investors could challenge that. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owns 27 per cent of Northumbrian Water Group Plc (which sells its water services to about 4.4 million ‘customers’ in England), and the Canada Pension Plan owns one-third of Anglian Water Services (which sells water services to approximately six million people in England). Both are highly profitable enterprises for these Canadian pension funds.


  2. If other European countries – beyond France, Bulgaria and Cantabria in northern Spain – decided to ban fracking. This past June, the Guardian reported, “A leading UK shale gas explorer (iGas) has said estimates of its resources in north-west England (in Cheshire) are considerably higher than previously thought and could meet gas consumption in Britain for decades.” The Globe and Mail has noted, “IGas, which is 20 per cent owned by Calgary-based Nexen Inc., has been drilling in the Bowland basin, a large rock formation that stretches across much of England.”


  3. If Romania were to pass a strict law in the coming years that prohibited the environmentally-destructive Rosia Montana mine from proceeding. Whitehorse-based, Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Gabriel Resources Ltd. has already threatened the Romanian government with ‘litigation for multiple breaches of international investment treaties’ for up to $4-billion if it doesn’t approve the controversial gold mine.


  4. A spokesperson from the Greek opposition party SYRIZA has stated they “would cancel the gold mine contract if it comes to power.” This is in reference to the highly controversial and environmentally-destructive Skouries mine in northern Greece being pursued by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold. If SYRIZA were to come to power (an election is expected this year or next), Eldorado Gold with CETA in their back pocket could threaten to sue for lost profits.


  5. Corporate Europe Observatory has pointed out that, “In May 2013, Slovak and Cypriot investors sued Greece for the 2012 debt swap which Athens had to negotiate with its creditors to get bailout money from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.” This adds misery to misery, but Canadian investors in Greece might see an opportunity for themselves with this example.

While 15 European Union countries have faced one or more investor-state challenges, the United Kingdom has not yet experienced this.

The United Kingdom has 72 representatives (Members of the European Parliament) in the 736 member European Parliament. The Canada-EU CETA will have to be ratified by both the European Parliament and the British House of Commons. Elections to the European Parliament will take place this coming May 22-25. The next general election in the United Kingdom is scheduled to take place on May 7, 2015.

Further reading
CETA would hinder water remunicipalization in England
Canadian company owns stake in major shale-gas find in the UK
Where does the UK stand on CETA?
British report criticizes Canada’s asbestos exports
Europeans face investor-state challenges with CETA
More than 100 organizations sign transatlantic statement opposing dangerous investor “rights” chapter in CETA
Eli Lilly’s investor-state challenge against Canada