Wednesday 27 November 2019 12:23 pm

Jeremy Corbyn: 'Secret documents confirm NHS on the table in post-Brexit trade talks'

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has revealed “secret” government documents that he says confirms the Conservatives will put the NHS “up for sale”.

The “secret report” shows conversations between US and UK officials discussing giving access US drug companies access to the NHS, according to Corbyn.

International trade secretary Liz Truss denied Corbyn’s claims and called the document release a “smokescreen”.

Corbyn said: “These uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson’s denials in absolute tatters. We’ve now got evidence that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale.”

Read more: Pressure rises on Jeremy Corbyn to apologise amid antisemitism row

“This election is now a fight for the survival of our NHS,” he added in a press conference this morning.

“This is not only a plot against the NHS, it’s a plot against the whole country.

“What’s at stake in a deal with Trump could not be more important for our country.”

The documents show discussions between UK and US trade representatives, with American negotiators saying they tend to start talks by assuming “everything is included”.

In March 2018, US trade representative Thomas Fine said: “The US thinks the negative list approach incentivises freer trade, because the assumption is that everything is included unless something is explicitly excluded.

“We in the US are wedded to a negative list approach.”

Corbyn said this proved that the UK government was having discussions about allowing US access to the NHS.

However, in other parts it shows US trade negotiators displaying “sensitivity” to the UK’s potential unwillingness to include the Health Service in trade talks.

A summary of talks between the two said: “Nursing was the other profession the US was interested in.

“The US were interested to know if it would be really problematic for the UK to act in this area – they were sensitive to the particular sensitivities with the health sector in the UK.”

The Labour leader and Barry Gardiner, international trade secretary, were asked if there was any proof that ministers had actually agreed to include the NHS in talks.

“You have to be realistic, there’s 451 pages here over six meetings,” Gardiner said.

“That’s a very long way of saying ‘no’.”

Truss said Corbyn was “lying to the public about what these documents contain”.

“People should not believe a word that he says – this stunt is simply a smokescreen for the fact that he has no plan for Brexit and that he has been forced to admit that he wants to increase taxes for millions of families,” she said.

Corbyn also claimed that officials have discussed a system which gives businesses a chance to sue the NHS.

Read more: Labour’s election rides on shameful NHS scaremongering

At this morning’s event, the Labour leader unveiled 451 pages of unredacted documents, which he said revealed the US had demanded “total market access” to the UK’s public health sector.

The documents cover six rounds of talks from July 2017 to a few months ago.

They include key points that UK officials will report that “patent issues” around NHS access to generic drugs “will be a key consideration” in post-Brexit trade talks with the US.

Meanwhile “total market access” for US companies to all UK service sectors would be the baseline for trade talks, the party also claimed.

Described by Labour as “secret talks”, they also broached issues such as a US demand not to mention the term climate change in any trade deal.

“We’re talking here about secret talks with Donald Trump about the future of our NHS,” Corbyn added. “This is what they don’t want you to know.”

The Labour leader claimed ministers sanctioned these talks and were aware of them.

Read more: Jeremy Corbyn forced to admit lower earners will be hit by Labour tax increases

Labour is pushing for the NHS to become the central issue in the upcoming December election.

An Ipsos Mori poll has found that healthcare has overtaken Brexit as the key topic among voters, with 60 per cent of Brits surveyed picking the former versus 56 per cent choosing the latter.

A Tory pledge to provide 50,000 more nurses for the NHS has been revealed to actually include 18,500 nurses the government hopes to retain or lure back to the UK healthcare system.

Labour has pledged to outspend the Conservatives on healthcare, promising an extra £40bn to the NHS if it wins the General Election.

Read more: Labour pledges extra £40bn to NHS

The money represents a £26bn investment hike in real terms. But shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s claim that the boost would be funded by taxiing “the richest in society” was ripped apart during a Corbyn interview with Andrew Neil last night.

Corbyn was forced to admit that Labour’s tax hikes would also hit lower earners too.

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