Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of lying to the public after he claimed he had “proof” the NHS was for sale in a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.
Mr Corbyn said he had a 451-page dossier showing initial talks had taken place, proving the NHS was “for sale”.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the claims were “nonsense” and the NHS would ‘not be part of trade talks’.
The Tory manifesto explicitly states neither the price paid for drugs nor NHS services will be “on the table”.
Mark Dayan, policy analyst and the head of public affairs at the Nuffield Trust think tank said the NHS was not being “flogged off”.
”US companies will not own hospitals.”
But he said the documents suggest the US is trying to get the NHS to buy more drugs from their pharmaceutical companies.
Currently the UK buys about 20% of its drugs from America.
Labour obtained uncensored government documents covering six rounds of talks between US and UK officials in Washington and London between July 2017 and July 2019. When Theresa May was Prime Minster not Boris Johnson!
One document quotes a UK official saying the talks are helpful in determining the areas the US may want to discuss, while acknowledging the ‘UK would have objections’.
The document also refers to the US policy of making “total market access” a starting point in any trade talks – but says it is up to other countries to specify anything they want to be ‘excluded’ from talks.
”There is ‘no evidence’ in the documents that the UK team agreed to anything in the talks.”
Jeremy Corbyn ‘doesn’t provide evidence’ ministers have agreed the health service should be part of a trade deal with US.
It’s clear US drug companies want access to UK markets – Labour suggests the UK has agreed they could extend the patents on some medicines, which could cost the NHS more, for example.
But no UK government would ever do a deal that made medicines more expensive for the NHS, and therefore the taxpayer, which would be massively costly for the government and probably prove deeply unpopular.
The Conservative manifesto says the NHS ‘will not be on the table’ in post-Brexit trade talks.
The claim the NHS would form part of a free-trade deal with the US under the Tories has been one of the Labour’s key attack lines in the general election campaign.
Labour has warned it could mean rising drug prices and NHS services being contracted out to US health companies.
Currently, the NHS is able to use its bargaining power as a centralised health system to negotiate low prices for drugs.
Meanwhile, about 7% of the NHS budget in England goes on private companies that provide NHS services, mainly non-emergency treatments such as knee and hip replacements and some community services.
Mr Corbyn said “We have now got evidence that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale.
Reacting to Mr Corbyn’s latest claims, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said it was simply a stunt.
“Jeremy Corbyn is getting desperate and is out and out lying about what the documents contain.
“People should not believe what he says.”
Mr Johnson, meanwhile, said the claims were “total nonsense”.
“This is continually brought up by the Labour Party as a diversionary tactic from the difficulties they are encountering,” he said.