US-UK Trade: Is Our NHS Under Threat?

31 January 2017

Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to rule out including the NHS in a trade deal with the US.

Following the vote to leave in last year’s referendum the UK will no longer be part of any negotiations on TTIP so the Tory government’s strategy seems to be to try and charm other countries around the world into trading with us. This was highlighted by the Prime Minister's visit to the US last week where she and President Trump struck up their “special relationship”.

Britain will very much be the junior partner in any dealings with countries such as the US so it is reasonable to ask what will be expected of us in any trade deals. Will we have to take in food that does not meet our own standards of production (think pesticides, chlorinated chicken and growth hormones – all currently banned in the EU)? Will US companies gain access to our health service? What will car manufacturers like Nissan’s approach to jobs be if we suddenly have an influx of American built cars?

When pressed on whether the UK health system would be opened up to US companies Mrs May would only state that the NHS would be free to use at point of entry. This is a worrying development for those who have campaigned for the NHS to be protected, a red line set out by Labour MEPs during TTIP negotiations.

Added to this was the Prime Minister's visit to Turkey over the weekend to promote trade. This really just amounted to the signing of a defence deal to sell fighter jets, rather than a mission to show that Britain’s goods can be exported there on a larger scale in future.

As we head down the path of Brexit, especially if we leave the Single Market, Britain has no choice but to strike out on its own in trade deals. If this means aligning ourselves even more closely with President Trump, and potentially putting our NHS at risk, it will indeed be a heavy price to pay.

Do you think the North East needs its own voice in the EU exit negotiations?

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