Donald Trump believes the NHS should “absolutely” be up for discussion in any trade deal between the UK and the US.
In a press conference as part of his state visit to the UK today, the President claimed a post-Brexit agreement could see trade between Britain and the US increase three-fold.
When asked if he envisaged the UK’s health service being part of any deal – meaning that US firms could take over running parts of the system – Trump was clear
He said: “Look, I think everything with a trade deal is on the table.
“When you’re dealing with trade, everything is on the table.
“So NHS or anything else – a lot more than that.
“Everything will be on the table, absolutely.”
Theresa May moved quickly to point out that just because the US wants to see the NHS offered up, it does mean the UK will make such a move.
“The point about making trade deals is that both sides negotiate and come to an agreement about what should or should not be in that trade deal for the future,” she said.
And health secretary Matt Hancock ruled out such a scenario.
He told the President that the NHS “never will be” on the table.
Labour MP Wes Streeting reacted with concern to Trump’s comments, tweeting: “Brexit is a threat to the NHS – and much else. Time for principled, full-throated opposition to it from the Labour Party.”
Speaking on Tuesday morning, international trade secretary Liam Fox said the government wanted to “explore new ways” the bonds between the UK and US can get stronger after Brexit.
When asked if that included putting the NHS “on the table” in a trade negotiation, Fox replied: “Everything of course is technically on the table in an agreement.
“But when it comes to things like the NHS it’s accepted practice in trade agreements that governments retain the right to regulate public services and that will include the NHS and that wouldn’t change.”