Farage Reckless Ukip
Nigel Farage and Mark Reckless pose for the press in Rochester today Reuters

The UK's other three major political parties broadly support the free trade deal between the EU and the US, but Ukip prefers to remain on the fence.

An official statement issued to IBTimes UK from Nigel Farage in October read: "Ukip is in favour of free trade, but we are opposed to the undemocratic Commission negotiating on our behalf. Of course we look at each trade deal on case by case basis, so if this one is not in the UK's interest, we will have no reservation in voting against. However we have yet to receive even the draft agreement (let alone the final agreement), in the meantime we share your concerns."

So the policy seems to be, at this stage, that there is no policy – which seems extremely strange, considering the high level of public interest and the engagement of the other political parties in the debate over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would be the largest trade deal in history, and is certainly proving to be the most controversial.

It will, most likely, remove the few remain tariff barriers to trade and seek regulatory harmonisation between the world's two largest trading blocs, removing red tape and making it easier for companies, small and large, to do business on both sides of the Atlantic.

Critics argue that it is being discussed in secret and that, through its investor protection mechanism, will allow companies to sue governments for lost profits. Domestic opponents have claimed it will open the UK's public services – including the NHS – to privatisation from US investors.

So visceral have these fears become, the Labour Party will today (21 November) vote for Prime Minister David Cameron to use "his veto" to exempt the NHS from discussions (this is despite EU officials' attempts to say it's not up for discussion in the first place).

The Conservative Party is strongly pro-TTIP and is pushing for the most ambitious and comprehensive deal possible. The Labour and Liberal Democrat parties both support the deal, but have called for no public services to be included and for more transparency. The Green Party is against the deal, saying it is "a corporate power grab that threatens our public services, environment and democracy".

So what of Ukip?

The party trade spokesperson Lord William Dartmouth has said he does not wish the NHS to be included in TTIP (an opinion also expressed by health spokesperson Louise Bours), that he wants more clarity over the investor protection clause, but has not said whether or not he broadly supports or opposes the agreement.

(Note: Conversations with those claiming to represent Dartmouth have often led to confusion – indeed, one who claimed to be his spokesperson told IBTimes UK that he was in favour of including the NHS in TTIP.)

According to the trade union Unite, Ukip's new MP for Rochester and Strood Mark Reckless called for David Cameron to "use his veto" to exempt the NHS from TTIP. But Reckless has said very little about the deal itself.

Yet previous statements from high-profile party officials would seem to hint at support for the deal (and for NHS privatisation).

In a blog post last year, the Ukip MEP Roger Helmer wrote: "Given that as of today, we've offshored our trade policy to Brussels, I think we have no alternative but to support the deal, even if we'd rather have done it ourselves. And of course in principle free trade is an excellent thing, a consummation devoutly to be wished. Depending on whom you ask, it's estimated that such a deal would increase GDP growth rates on both sides of the water by half to 1% per annum."

Paul Nuttall, Deputy Leader, has previously implied that he wishes the NHS to be blown open to investors of all description, saying: "I would like to congratulate the coalition government for bringing a whiff of privatisation into the beleaguered National Health Service... I would argue that the very existence of the NHS stifles competition... the NHS ... is not fit for purpose in the 21st Century."

In an interview with this publication last week, the party leader Nigel Farage defended Ukip's lack of manifesto, less than 12 months before a General Election.

"Bits of it have been coming out, and it's all been copied, so I'm now beginning to think we must hold back. One of our really big ideas was to have a sovereign wealth fund for some of the profits of shale gas, the kind of thing the Norwegians did brilliantly. And now, blow me down, George Osborne comes out with the idea.

"I have laid out this morning [14 November] our health policy because there was a bit of an argument, a bit of a row going on, but I am now pretty determined to hold things back, until later on in the campaign, for fear that our common-sense approach will be picked up and copied by everybody."

It seems, however, that there is no such excuse for holding back with a concrete and constructive policy on TTIP – since all the other political parties have thrown their respective hats into the ring. Ukip says it will not make a decision on whether to support the agreement before seeing the final texts – which could be years in the future.

This week, the EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström outlined plans to allow MEPs to view negotiating texts, with a view to making TTIP discussions. Perhaps then we may have an answer from Ukip.

Over to you, Mr Farage.