US News Will the NHS be ‘for sale’ after Brexit?

11:50  08 february  2018
11:50  08 february  2018 Source:   theweek.co.uk

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Theresa May has stoked fears that the NHS will be “ for sale ” in a trade deal with the US after Brexit , after refusing to say it will be excluded from the talks. The Prime Minister was warned that a “key objective” for Washington would be gaining access to the health service

The Prime Minister raised fears the NHS is “ for sale ” after refusing to rule out allowing US firms to compete for health service contracts after Brexit .

Will the NHS be ‘for sale’ after Brexit? © Chris J Radcliffe/AFP/Getty Images Will the NHS be ‘for sale’ after Brexit?

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Theresa May has stoked fears the NHS could be opened up for exploitation by US drug firms as part of a post-Brexit trade deal, refusing to say the health service would be excluded from future talks.

Responding to a question in the Commons from Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable, the Prime Minister said it was too early to judge what “requirements” the US would have for post-Brexit trade discussions.

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The Prime Minister raised fears the NHS is “ for sale ” after refusing to rule out allowing US firms to compete for health service contracts after Brexit .

The Prime Minister raised fears the NHS is “ for sale ” after refusing to rule out allowing US firms to compete for health service contracts after Brexit .

“The Prime Minister knows that one of the key objectives of American trade negotiators in any future deal after Brexit is to secure access for American companies to business in the NHS,” Cable said.

“Can she give an absolute guarantee that in those negotiations the NHS will be excluded from their scope, and can she confirm that in her conversations with President Trump she’s made it absolutely clear to him that the NHS is not for sale?”

May’s critics warned that the US would use any future deal to demand the health service was opened up to private firms from across the Atlantic.


Her answer was seized on by Labour MP Peter Kyle, a supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, who said: “Theresa May just gave Donald Trump the green light to get his hands on our National Health Service.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jon Ashworth, has previously warned a trade deal could lead to “stealth privatisation” of the NHS.

The proportion of health service contracts being won by non-NHS firms ballooned to almost 70% last year, says The Independent. “Critics say this rising ‘privatisation’ has opened the door to US health firms, who already view the NHS as a goldmine,” adds the paper.

Turning the question on its head, The Economist asks whether American companies actually want to invest in the NHS. Might they instead stick to the far more profitable private healthcare system in Britain, the magazine asks.

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The Prime Minister knows that one of the key objectives of American trade negotiators in any future deal after Brexit is to secure access for American companies to do Will she also confirm that she has made it absolutely clear to President Trump in her conversations with him that the NHS is not for sale ?

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“Government spending on health as a share of GDP is lower in Britain than in most of western Europe and the gap is forecast to increase. Many NHS trusts are in deficit. And dealing with the NHS can be a messy and frustrating business, far removed from the cash-rich American health-care machine,” the magazine argues.

Under a recent EU directive which means health commissioners must tell the open market when any NHS contract is being tendered, there’s even an argument that “remaining within the EU will encourage more private healthcare providers into the NHS”, argues the anti-Brexit New European.

Speaking after Theresa May’s evasive Commons performance, an official spokesman later clarified that the prime minister had made clear that “the NHS is not for sale and it never will be” in February 2017.

The spokesman added: “Any trade deal ensures decisions about public services continue to be made by UK governments, not by our trade partners.

“The UK’s public health sector is protected by specific exceptions and reservations in all EU trade arrangements and, as we leave the EU, the UK will continue to ensure that rigorous protections for the NHS are included in all trade agreements it is party to.”

However, with the UK’s global standing and bargaining power greatly diminished outside the EU, and the Government desperate for a new trade deal with the US, access to the NHS may be a matter that comes up for discussion again.

Earlier this week, Donald Trump attacked the health service as “going broke and not working”.

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