- The UK government has been engaged in secret talks with the US about including the National Health Service in a post-Brexit trade deal with President Donald Trump, according to secret documents released Wednesday.
- The opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn released 451 pages of confidential government documents detailing the talks.
- He said they revealed the NHS was “up for sale” in talks with Trump.
- The documents indicate that drug pricing in the UK “will be a key consideration going forward” in talks.
- Negotiators also discussed moves to persuade the British public to accept the removal of the ban on chlorinated chicken.
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson denies the NHS will be included in any deal.
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The UK government has been engaged in secret talks with the US over the role of the National Health Service in a post-Brexit trade deal, according to 451 pages of official documents released by the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who claimed they showed the NHS was “up for sale” in a post-Brexit trade deal with President Donald Trump.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Corbyn handed out unredacted material showing that the Conservative government had discussed including the NHS in a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.
“We have now got evidence that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale,” Corbyn said of the UK prime minister.
“He tried to cover it up in a secret agenda and today it has been exposed.”
The documents reveal six rounds of talks dating back to July 2017.
The UK government is preparing to strike new free-trade deals once the UK leaves the European Union. A comprehensive trade deal with the US is one of the UK government’s highest priorities.
Corbyn said the documents revealed that the two sides had completed “initial discussions” about medicine patents being part of a post-Brexit free-trade agreement, which if agreed to could cause UK medicine prices to rise.
“Longer patents mean only one thing – more expensive drugs,” Corbyn said.
“Lives will be put at risk as a result of this.”
As pictured below, one document released Wednesday records officials suggesting that “the impact of some patent issues raised on NHS access to generic drugs (i.e. cheaper drugs) will be a key consideration going forward.”
Drug prices in the US are substantially higher than in the UK, according to independent academic research.
Johnson has repeatedly denied that the UK’s free healthcare service would be on the table in trade negotiations with Trump.
Corbyn on Wednesday, however, said the documents left Johnson’s denials “in tatters.”
“These uncensored reports leave Boris Johnson’s denials in tatters,” he said. “This election is now a battle of survival for our NHS.”
A government source denied that the talks amounted to plans to sell off the NHS.
“These were preliminary sessions, aimed at getting a clearer understanding of what each country’s respective policies and arrangements are,” the person said. “They should not be seen as anything more.”
The documents also reveal that US negotiators said they would support including a reference to climate change in a trade deal with the UK, as it is “sensitive” and a “lightning rod issue” in the US.
The documents also reveal the two sides discussed relaxing UK rules forbidding the use of chlorine washes for poultry.
The UK negotiators agreed that the US should “share their public lines on chlorine-washed chicken to help inform the media narrative around the issue.”
The UK government has denied that it will lower food standards after Brexit but has so far refused to state that food standards will form part of any deal with the US.
Corbyn has warned that a post-Brexit trade deal with Trump would force the UK to accept US food standards, including regulations allowing set amounts of rodent hair, maggots, and mould in food products.
US producers must adhere to a “Defect Levels Handbook” that describes the maximum number of foreign bodies that would be allowed in different types of foods before they enter the market.
Producers in the US are allowed to include up to 30 insect fragments in a 100-gram jar of peanut butter as well as 11 rodent hairs in a 25-gram container of paprika, or 3 milligrams of mammalian excreta (typically rat or mouse excrement) per each pound of ginger.