‘Proof NHS at risk under US trade deal’ – Labour

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn: “This election is now a fight for survival of NHS”

Labour says it has evidence the NHS is at risk under a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

At a press conference in London, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he had a 451-page dossier showing talks had taken place on drug pricing and NHS access.

He warned it could lead to the health service paying more for drugs and “run-away privatisation”.

The Tories accused Mr Corbyn of lying and said the NHS was not at risk under a future trade deal.

In the Conservative manifesto, published at the weekend, the party explicitly stated neither the price paid for drugs nor the services provided would be “on the table”.

Idea of NHS being up for sale will be furiously disputed

This is all going to be furiously disputed throughout the day, no question.

It’s important, though, that Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t provide evidence that ministers have agreed that the health service should be part of a trade deal with US.

But details of discussions about the demands of US pharmaceutical companies will still be motivating for Labour voters worried about the NHS.

“Not for sale” has been the biggest mantra at Labour events, even though the Tories have always furiously denied that the NHS is in any way “up for sale”.

It’s clear that US drug firms want access to UK markets – Labour suggests the UK has agreed they could extend patents of some medicines which could cost the NHS more, for example.

There’s a big political question about whether any UK government would ever do a deal that made medicines much more expensive for the NHS, and therefore the taxpayer – this would be massively costly for the government and likely to be deeply unpopular.

Labour released uncensored government documents covering six rounds of negotiations – taking place in Washington and London from July 2017 to July this year.

They are preparatory meetings ahead of formal trade talks, and appear to provide more detail on meetings Channel Four Dispatches programme reported on earlier this year.

As well as the pharmaceutical industry, the talks covered others including agriculture and issues such as climate change.

The documents show the US are interested in discussing drug pricing, mainly by extending patents that stop cheaper generic medicines being used.

The US pays two-and-a-half times more for drugs than the NHS does.

One document sees the UK official talking about the talks being helpful in determining the areas the US may want to discuss, while acknowledging the UK would have objections.

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Mr Corbyn said they showed talks were at a “very advanced stage” and gave the lie to Boris Johnson’s claims that the NHS would not be part of any trade talks.

“The uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson’s denials in absolute tatters,” the told a news conference in London.

“We have now got evidence that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale.

“He tried to cover it up in a secret agenda and today it has been exposed.”

The claim that 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.

It has been vehemently denied by the Conservatives, with Mr Johnson denouncing the claim as “an absolute invention” and “completely untrue” when he clashed with Mr Corbyn in the first TV debate.

Reacting to Mr Corbyn’s latest claims, International Development 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.”

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