BMA leaders have called for ‘cast-iron guarantees’ that the NHS will be protected in any post-Brexit trade deal, after the Labour party revealed details of US-UK trade talks that it says put ‘the NHS on the table’
This is an edited version of an article first published by GPonline.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said unredacted documents obtained by the party on trade talks between the UK and US proved ‘that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale’.
Official notes on meetings held by the UK-US trade and investment working group over the past two years show that US negotiators have ‘pushed hard’ for longer patents for US drug companies, Labour said. The party warned that longer patents would drive up the price paid by the NHS for vital drugs.
Labour highlighted a line in the documents stating that the US starting point in trade talks was that ‘total market access’ should be the ‘baseline assumption of the trade negotiations’.
Mr Corbyn said that “on behalf of the Conservative government, officials reassured their counterparts that the US should expect the UK to be a liberalising influence and that together they could fly the good flag for services liberalisation.”
The Labour leader added: “That’s a green light for breaking open Britain’s public services so corporations can profit. This election is now a fight for the survival of our NHS as a public service free for all at the point of need.
“So for the want of any doubt, let me give this reassurance: Labour will never ever treat our NHS as a bargaining chip in trade talks with anybody. We will never let Donald Trump get his hands on our NHS. Because our NHS is not for sale.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter that the ‘NHS will not be on the table for any trade negotiations’ – and said the Conservatives were ‘protecting and strengthening our NHS with more investment and an Australian points-based immigration system’.
Post-Brexit trade deal
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair, said: “The implication that the NHS could be included in a post-Brexit trade deal with the US is alarming and must not become a reality.
“Despite previous assurances from Mr Johnson, following the release of these documents we now need cast-iron guarantees from all parties that the health service will form no part of negotiations around future trade deals, and that the health of the British public will not be put at risk by commercial motives or lower standards.
“We must ensure that no matter what government is in charge, patients’ access to essential and lifechanging medicine cannot be put at risk.
“One of the vital lessons to come out of the election is the importance and value people living here place on the NHS as a public service.
‘Trading our nation’s health for profit would be the beginning of the end – our health service must be completely excluded from any future trade agreement.”