“The Trade Bill is returning to parliament on Monday, and there’s nothing in it to stop our NHS from being included in future trade deals. There’s nothing in it to stop the vultures in the US private healthcare industry getting their hands on our NHS.”Cat Hobbs, We Own It
We’re all familiar with Boris Johnson’s platitudes about the NHS being “off the table” in trade deals. They’ve been central to the government’s messaging around trade for almost a year.
But our NHS needs more than warm words. It needs concrete protection.
Unfortunately, the government hasn’t seen fit to give it any. The Trade Bill is returning to parliament on Monday, and there’s nothing in it to stop our NHS from being included in future trade deals. There’s nothing in it to stop the vultures in the US private healthcare industry getting their hands on our NHS.
What this means is that our NHS will end up being charged more for pharmaceuticals – something the USA has been clear it wants to ensure happens in any trade deal. It means enshrining in international treaties the right of American healthcare companies to access the NHS – and even the right to sue the government if it tries to restrict their ability to make profit. And it means ‘locking in’ privatisation in legally binding agreements that would be incredibly difficult for a future government to reverse.
In short, the threat of a Trade Bill without proper protection for the NHS is the end of our publicly owned, publicly run NHS as we know it. While the privatisation we’ve seen in the NHS over the last three decades has been devastating for our health service, it’s nothing compared to the damage that could be caused if we don’t stop our NHS being included in trade deals.
To make matters worse, parliament currently has no powers to scrutinise or vote on any concrete trade arrangement negotiated by the government. Instead, Johnson’s government is seeking to use the Trade Bill to give themselves carte blanche to sign up to any deal without MPs or the public ever seeing the details or having any say in it. Our NHS could be negotiated away, chopped up and sold off behind closed doors.
The public understand the scale of this. That’s why over a million people have signed the petition to keep or NHS out of trade deals. It’s why over 400 health professionals have signed an open letter demanding protection for the NHS. And it’s why over 6000 people so far have demanded their MP vote to allow MPs the right to scrutinise and vote on trade deals.
With the future of our NHS at stake, it’s time for MPs to step up to the plate. It’s time to guarantee the future of our precious health service. And it’s time to keep Donald Trump and his private healthcare industry pals out of our NHS.