NHS 'Off the Table' in Future UK-US Trade Deal

Nicky Broyd

June 05, 2019

In an apparent U-turn President Trump has ruled out the NHS forming part of a future "phenomenal" UK-US trade deal. 

In an interview before the President's state visit US ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, told the BBC that business access to the NHS would form part of trade negotiations after Brexit.

Yesterday afternoon in a joint news conference with Prime Minister Theresa May, President Trump appeared to confirm this when asked about the NHS and trade negotiations: "When you're dealing in trade, everything is on the table - so NHS or anything else, a lot more than that, but everything will be on the table, absolutely."

However, some hours later in an interview with Piers Morgan recorded for ITV's Good Morning Britain the President had a change of heart, saying: "I don't see it being on the table, somebody asked me a question today and I say 'everything's up for negotiation' because everything is, but that's something that I would not consider part of trade."

'Not on My Watch'

Before Mr Trump's clarification, speculation about the future of the NHS post-Brexit prompted Health Secretary Matt Hancock, one of the contenders to replace Mrs May, to tweet that it wouldn’t happen on his watch.

https://twitter.com/MattHancock/status/1135909336310460419

Today he added : "Glad to see @realDonaldTrump say that the NHS is not on the table in any trade talks. The NHS is not a bargaining chip in negotiations, with the US or otherwise."

Mr Hancock is only in charge of the NHS in England. His counterpart in Wales Vaughan Gething said: "The Welsh NHS is a public service that was born in Wales, and it will remain a public service under this Welsh Government.

"And in Wales, under this government, it will continue to be a much loved and cherished service that puts people, not profit, first."

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a similar message on Twitter: "As @ScotGovFM my view is clear - Scotland’s NHS is not and must never be ‘on the table’ in a trade negotiation with President Trump, or anyone else for that matter."

The British Medical Association (BMA) wrote a letter urging all Conservative Party leadership candidates to commit to keeping the NHS out of trade talks with the US. BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "We have an unequivocal message for the next Conservative leader and future Prime Minister: profit should never take priority over the protection of the health service and the healthcare of citizens."

In the letter, candidates are also urged to prevent a no-deal Brexit: "I do not believe that anyone who cast their vote in the EU referendum was voting for an impoverished or weakened health service, or for a situation in which thousands of highly skilled EU NHS staff would consider leaving the NHS. Now that more is known about the impact that Brexit will have on the UK and on health services specifically, it’s vital that the public can have the final say."

Other Tory leadership candidates have been making their positions clear.

Earlier in the week, Jeremy Hunt, a former health secretary, is reported by The Guardian to have said "I can’t conceive of any future prime minister, for any party, ever agreeing that we would allow NHS procurement to be part of trade talks, because the NHS as a publicly run, publicly owned institution is part of our DNA."

Dominic Raab tweeted yesterday: "I want to see the UK get fair deals on trade with the US and many other countries when we leave the EU. But the NHS is not for sale to any country and never would be if I was Prime Minister."

Also via Twitter, Rory Stewart said: "In case there was any doubt - I would not be 'offering up' the NHS in any trade deal. The NHS is incredibly important - an extraordinary institution - a great symbol of our civilisation which we should protect and invest in an institution of which we should be deeply proud."

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