Jeremy Corbyn demands Donald Trump takes NHS 'off the table' as US President arrives in UK

Posted On: 
3rd December 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has written to Donald Trump to demand that the NHS "will truly be taken off the table" in a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the US.

The US President is in Britain for the Nato summit.
Credit: 
PA

The Labour leader doubled down on his claim - strongly denied by Boris Johnson - that access to the health service for US companies will be considered in trade talks between the two countries.

In a letter sent as the US President touched down in the UK ahead of this week's Nato summit, Mr Corbyn called on America to revise its negotiating objectives for a deal, ditching any reference to pharmaceuticals and dropping a demand for "total market access" to British public services.

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The attack comes after Labour published leaked documents covering early talks between UK and US officials on a potential deal. 

The documents confirmed meetings on the NHS's system for patented medicines and described the US request for "total market access" as the "baseline" for a deal.

Mr Corbyn said the batch of documents "pulls back the curtain" on Conservative plans to give American corporations access to the NHS once the UK leaves the EU.

But the Conservative manifesto states: "The NHS is not on the table.

"The price the NHS pays for drugs is not on the table. The services the NHS provides are not on the table."

In his letter to the US President, Mr Corbyn said: "As you will know, the potential impact of any future UK-US trade agreement on our National Health Service and other vital public services is of profound concern to the British public.

"A critical issue in this context is the cost of drugs to our NHS. The cost of patented drugs in the US is approximately 2.5 times higher than in the UK, and the price of the top 20 medicines is 4.8 times higher than in the UK. 

"Any increase in the NHS drugs bill would be an unacceptable outcome of US-UK trade negotiations. Yet you have given a number of clear and worrying indications that this is exactly what you hope to achieve."

The Labour leader meanwhile urges the US President to take steps to ensure the NHS is not opened up to "irreversible privatisation".

He calls on the US to accept the role of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) regulator in overseeing UK drug pricing; drop the demand for "total market access" and rule out moves to sue the British government for "protecting public services".

Mr Corbyn also demands the exclusion of any move to stop the NHS capping what it spends on branded drugs, and ensure patient data is "fully exempted from digital trade and data sharing provisions in the agreement".

"A revision of the US negotiating objectives along these lines would go a long way to reassuring the British public that the US government will not be seeking total market access to the UK public services; that the NHS will not be on the table in US-UK trade negotiations; that a US-UK trade deal will not open up NHS services to irreversible privatisation; and that the US government accepts that our NHS is not for sale in any form," he says.

"I am sure you understand that our coming General Election on 12th December means the British public need urgent clarity that our NHS is genuinely off the table in UK-US trade talks and will not be exposed to higher costs from US drugs companies."

'DESPERATION'

The letter comes as Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson also seeks to pile pressure on the Conservatives over a post-Brexit trade tie-up with the United States.

Seizing on the same documents pushed by Labour, Ms Swinson will warn that US firms want a greater use of chemicals in food production, with chlorine-washing chicken and growth hormones in beef among the controversial methods being pushed by officials.

The party has also long warned that Brexit could pile extra pressure the agricultural sector, including by imposing fresh tariffs on agricultural products and leading to a labour shortage through the end of free movement.

Ms Swinson said: "Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans threaten to put our farmers out of business, through crippling tariffs for exports to the EU and labour shortages that would leave food rotting in the fields.

"To make matters worse, Johnson’s desperation for a post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump means UK farmers risk being undercut by low-standard imports from the US.

"Boris Johnson must give a guarantee that our farmers and world-leading food standards will not be sacrificed on the altar of a Trump trade deal."