Boris Johnson is coming under renewed pressure over a future UK-US trade deal, as Donald Trump travels to the UK for this week’s Nato meeting.
Leaders from 29 countries arrive in London tomorrow for a meeting to mark Nato’s 70th anniversary. On the agenda are drinks at Buckingham Palace and a reception at Downing Street, as well as a meeting of the so-called ‘E3’ – the UK, Germany and France – with Turkey, to discuss Syria.
As City A.M. went to press, Downing Street was unable to confirm whether Johnson would be holding a bilateral meeting with his US counterpart, amid fears Trump’s fulsome support could backfire.
Regardless, opposition leaders including Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, Lib Dems’ Jo Swinson and SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon are expected to make interventions today (Tuesday) regarding the inclusion of the NHS in trade talks.
In an open letter to Johnson, Corbyn urged the Prime Minister to “discontinue” trade talks until the NHS has been explicitly excluded, and all reference to pharmaceutical firms removed.
“With polling day fast approaching, full transparency about the threat to the future of our NHS is vital,” he said. “The public need to know that all aspects of our health service are genuinely off the table in any UK-US trade talks, and that no part of the NHS or our health system will be up for sale.”
Corbyn wrote a parallel letter direct to Trump, urging the President to rule out his plans for “irreversible privatisation” of the UK’s health service.
Other opposition parties are also weaponising Trump’s arrival.
Sturgeon, who is speaking in Lockerbie as part of the SNP’s campaign, said: “People in rural Scotland are being led up the garden path by Boris Johnson’s Tories – who are simply lying to them when they pretend that Brexit can be anything but damaging to our rural economies… And with Donald Trump set to arrive in the UK tomorrow, the threat to our valuable NHS, our world class produce, our food standards, and our businesses has never been greater.”
The Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he hoped Trump would clarify Labour’s claims that the NHS would be sold off as part of a trade deal – something he attacked as “the biggest lie of this election”.
Speaking in north Wale, Farage said: “I really hope Trump says ‘America has no interest in buying up the National Health Service, it will not happen.’”
But health secretary Matt Hancock rubbished any suggestion the NHS was on the table in trade talks.
“Once again, Jeremy Corbyn is desperately trying to whip up absurd scare stories about our NHS to distract from his confused position on Brexit and plans for two referendums,” he said.
Main image: Getty