Jeremy Corbyn asks Donald Trump to guarantee NHS is off the table in trade talks
Jeremy Corbyn has written to President Donald Trump to demand he urgently clarifies that the NHS and is genuinely off the table in a UK-US trade talks.
The Labour leader wants the US President to guarantee that the health service will not be exposed to higher costs from US drug companies.
It comes amid mounting fears a Tory majority could pave the way for a post-Brexit deal which lets predatory American firms into the UK health market.
The claim has been repeatedly denied Boris Johnson , but the Prime Minister has failed to quell anxiety.
It comes after Jeremy Corbyn sent a letter to the PM asking him for a similar commitment.
In the letter sent this morning, Mr Corbyn sets out his claim that the NHS has been on the table in the secret UK-US trade talks.
And he says that the UK should cancel future trade talks with the Americans until our NHS is safe.
Last week the Labour leader released secret documents which showed that the NHS is on the table in trade talks with the US – despite the Tories’ desperate denials.
The official papers exposed the full scale of Donald Trump .’s wish-list as Britain goes begging for a post-Brexit deal.
The 451 uncensored pages revealed the US wants “total market access” to all sectors after the UK leaves the EU.
Other areas being discussed included financial services, food safety, the environment and workers’ rights.
Last week NHS and care workers wrote fear for the future of the health social care services under a US trade deal, workers’ leaders warn tonight.
In an open letter, published exclusively in the Mirror, the general secretaries of the TUC, Unison, Unite and GMB issue a fresh alert about the sectors if a transatlantic pact is negotiated.
Senior officials from the British Dietetic Association, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, College of Podiatry and Society of Radiographers have also signed the letter.
In total, the signatories represent 350,000 social care workers and more than half a million NHS staff and, including doctors, nurses radiographers, ambulance drivers, midwives, health visitors, paramedics, dieticians, medical secretaries, cleaners and porters.
Full text of the letter:
Dear Mr President,
The UK-US trading relationship is a central element in the close partnership between our two countries.
I am writing to you today to seek assurances in relation to a post-Brexit UK-US trade agreement, and in particular over the prices paid to US drugs companies as a consequence of any such UK trade deal with the US.
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.
In February this year, the Office of your US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, published its negotiating objectives for a US-UK trade deal. In the section on ‘Procedural Fairness for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices’, they call for standards to ensure that “government regulatory reimbursement regimes” provide “full market access for US products”.
You have yourself said that foreign governments extort “unreasonably low prices” from US pharmaceutical firms. You have also directed Mr Lighthizer to make the issue “a top priority with every trading partner”.
Your Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, has said the US needs to get foreign countries to pay more for prescription drugs through trade agreements. And the White House has called for a global crackdown on ‘foreign freeloading’ on drug prices.
At a press conference held in London last week, I disclosed the leaked read-outs from six meetings of the UK-US Trade and Investment Working Group held over the past two years.
The fourth round of UK-US meetings included a three-hour session dedicated solely to patents and pharmaceuticals, during which British government officials explained how our patent system operates in relation to pharmaceuticals and the NHS.
After this session, the British official leading the discussions concluded: “We have reached a point (for Patents in Pharmaceuticals/Health) where… we are awaiting the clearance to negotiate and exchange text to really take significant further steps.” In other words, UK officials made clear they are poised to draft a trade agreement that could lead to a large increase in the cost of pharmaceuticals to the NHS.
There is also growing concern that the NHS could be opened up to irreversible privatisation as a result of the UK-US trade talks.
The evidence from your administration’s talks with the UK government shows that privatisation of NHS services delivery risks being permanently locked in through the inclusion of health services in a UK-US trade deal.
Throughout the six rounds of secret meetings to date, US officials have repeatedly emphasised that all service sectors are on the table for negotiation.
During the third round, for example, the record shows US officials pressing for an approach that makes “total market access the baseline assumption of the trade negotiations and requires countries to identify exclusions, not the other way around”.
You said earlier this year that everything would be “on the table” in a US-UK trade deal, including the NHS. You have since said you don’t necessarily see the NHS as being on the table and “part of trade”.
To assure the British public that the NHS and other UK public services will not be opened up to “total market access” and irreversible privatisation, and that all aspects of NHS pharmaceuticals procurement will truly be taken off the table in a US-UK trade agreement, I am writing to you today to ask you to request US negotiating objectives are revised as a matter of urgency so that they:
- Exclude any reference to pharmaceuticals;
- Accept the role of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to set the threshold for the cost-effectiveness of drugs for the NHS;
- Drop the demand for “total market access” to UK public services;
Explicitly rule out any investor-state dispute settlement mechanism by which the UK government could be sued for protecting public services;
- Exclude any provision on regulatory exclusivities such as data exclusivity, marketing exclusivity, therapeutic exclusivity and other non-patent monopolies;
- Exclude any provision that could remove caps on the amount the NHS spends on branded medicines each year, including anything that might enable the US to take legal action against the UK’s Voluntary Price Access Scheme
- Ensure NHS patient data are fully exempted from digital trade and data sharing provisions in the agreement
- Exclude any provision that would prevent the NHS from negotiating deals for the health service as a whole.
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 beon 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.
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.
I look forward to receiving your response.
Leader of the Labour Party
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