Labelled as the biggest free trade deal in history, secret talks and negotiations are currently underway between the European Union and the United States to introduce the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – TTIP.

It has champions from both sides of the Atlantic, from Washington to the British Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg, and Europhiles such as Ken Clarke.

When announced in 2013, it was claimed that TTIP will create two million jobs and £100 billion in benefits to the EU. However the European Commission’s best scenario, forecasts GDP would grow by 0.5 percent by 2029, equating to two pounds per person a week; the commission also admits that up to one million workers in the EU and US could lose their jobs as a result of the programme.

Recently, even Ken Clarke has dismissed government economic forecasts as little more than “speculation”.

These apparent contradictions have led the trade deal’s main critics to condemn the TTIP proposal as little more than an ideological deal to suit the interests of big business; transferring the democratic control of economies and workers’ rights to transnational corporations.

Opponents warn that the deal poses a direct threat to public ownership and scrutiny of the health, education and energy industries; as well as undermining the progressive nature of workers’ rights and trade union representation.

Under the trade deal, investors and businesses will have the power to sue national governments, for any potential loss of profit as a result of government decisions. These Investor State Dispute Settlements will be held in secret and overseen by corporate lawyers.

Examples of such proceedings have already occurred under similar rules and regulations, energy companies sued Argentina for freezing energy prices, which raises questions over any potential Labour government in 2015 from doing the same. In Egypt, the waste and energy company Veolia, sued the Egyptian government for bringing in the minimum wage; and the Australian government was sued by the tobacco corporation Philip Morris, for introducing plain packaging on tobacco products.

To facilitate US businesses to trade with European Union nations, current environmental regulations, labour laws and food safety standards -such as bans on GMOs- will be removed.

This relaxing of regulations is just part of the liberalisation of EU economies. Public services and government contracts will not be protected from these measures. Health services such as the NHS are included within the negotiations.

The NHS and other nationalised services would be almost impossible to renationalise once privatised, which may in part explain why the main political parties in the UK fall short of a commitment to renationalise the railways.

Such ideological fears are not without precedent; TTIP is seen as the latest in a series of neoliberal measures.

Following The Stability and Growth Pact, the 2020 Strategy, and the Fiscal Compact – critics and opponents, mainly from the left of the political spectrum, cite the rewriting of Portugal’s 1976 constitution, believing that the most progressive elements of it are being replaced, whilst observing that France is seeing the biggest cuts to public services since the Second World War.

In Britain, the government has secured an opt-out from the 2012 Stability Treaty, but Article 16 states than within 5 years of implementation from January 2013, all member states are legally obliged to eliminate the budget deficit. It is no coincidence that in this year’s budget, George Osbourne targeted a zero budget deficit by 2018.

Institute for Fiscal Studies states we are not yet halfway through the necessary public sector job cuts.

Internationally, TTIP follows the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment in 1999 which was successfully defeated. The General Agreement on Trade in Services in 1995, allowed the liberalisation of service sectors into an open market, but campaign groups including trade unions succeeded in ensuring governments could keep public services out of it.

Perhaps the most widely known deal of all, the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saw the heavily subsidised US agriculture industry undermine Mexican farmers and the wider economy; one knock-on effect was that peasants fled from the land, which is now used for poppy growing in the drug trade.

Under the NAFTA treaty, US corporations must be allowed to operate freely.

Even today the US is fortifying the border with Mexico to prevent impoverished citizens from seeking a new life. This is a direct result of NAFTA. The Adam Smith notion that “free trade requires the free movement of labour” is lost on the architects of these free trade deals.

The British government backs TTIP claiming it can compete in the single market by extending the reach of the private sector into public services. The US sees it as an opportunity to force open markets for US corporations, and to allow EU firms to relocate to the states where anti-union laws are in place and production costs are cheaper.

Based on recent “free trade” deals and the austerity programme imposed by the European Union on member states, opponents fear that TTIP will end any chance of a democratically controlled economy and will irreversibly end public ownership.