Trump will ‘absolutely’ include NHS in Brexit trade deals
Author: Louise Prime
US president Donald Trump will “absolutely” include the NHS in post-Brexit trade deals with the UK, he has insisted – to the fury of doctors’ leaders, who have urged all candidates for the Conservative party leadership to commit to ensure that the NHS is “off the table” in any deals. They warned that profit must never take priority over the protection of the NHS and people’s healthcare.
During Donald Trump’s official press conference (section 19:57-20:55) with prime minister Theresa May yesterday afternoon, The Times’ political editor Francis Elliott asked him if he agreed with Woody Johnson, US ambassador to the UK, who said on BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday that the entire UK economy needs to be on the table during future trade deals – including the NHS.
Donald Trump asserted: “I think we are going to have a great and very comprehensive trade deal … [pause while Theresa May explained to him that the NHS is the National Health Service] … 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.”
Theresa May responded: “But the point about making trade deals is that both sides negotiate and come to an agreement about what should and should not be in that trade deal for the future.”
The British Medical Association (BMA) said in an open letter to Conservative Party leadership candidates that patients and NHS staff are understandably alarmed by the US ambassador’s comments that the NHS should be on the table as part of a future trade deal.
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “We are asking you to commit to excluding the NHS from any future trade agreements if the UK leaves the EU…
“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.”
He also called on candidates to do everything possible to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which he said would leave no part of the NHS unscathed, from the supply of medicines and medical radioisotopes, to access to reciprocal healthcare and the impact on the NHS and research workforce. And thirdly, he said, the incoming prime minister should give the public the final say on a decision that will determine the country’s future for decades to come. He added: “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.”
Within a few minutes of the press conference, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, who is standing in the leadership contest, tweeted simply: “Dear Mr President. The NHS isn’t on the table in trade talks – and never will be. Not on my watch.”
The foreign secretary and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt had already ruled out including the NHS in any possible trade deal, and Dominic Raab had tweeted: “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.”