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For immediate release

Conservatives respond to Labour’s claim about the NHS in any trade deal with the US

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said:

“Jeremy Corbyn is getting desperate and is out-and-out lying to the public about what these
documents contain. He has always believed in conspiracy theories - which is why he has
failed to crack down on the scourge of antisemitism in his party. This is the man that has
caused huge offence by blaming an imaginary ‘Zionist lobby’ for society’s ills and now he
has decided to smear UK officials too.

“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.

“As we have consistently made clear: the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade
deal and the price that the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table. This sort of
conspiracy theory fuelled nonsense is not befitting of the leader of a major political party.”


Notes to editors

The documents from the supposed ‘unredacted dossier’ that Jeremy Corbyn premised his
entire press conference on have already been online for two months.

The documents are readouts from meetings of the UK-US Trade & Investment Working
Group on:

24-25 July 2017

13-14 November 2017
21-22 March 2018
10 –11 July 2018
2-7 November 2018
10-11 July 2019 (only a high-level readout)

In over 450 pages the documents only mention the NHS four times. In the only document
that relates to this year (Document 6: UK-US Trade and Investment Working Group – high
level read-out), there is not a single mention of the NHS, drugs or of pharmaceuticals.

Following a public consultation on this the Department for International Trade made clear:
‘The NHS will never be privatised, and any future trade agreements will not change that’.
This response was published after the documents which Labour rely upon (DIT, Public
consultation on trade negotiations with the United States: Summary of responses, 18 July
2019, p.49-50, link).

The 2019 Conservative Party manifesto says: ‘The NHS is not on the table. The price the
NHS pays for drugs is not on the table. The services the NHS provides are not on the table.’
In 2011 Jeremy Corbyn wrote: “It’s time that Western governments stood up to the zionist
lobby which seems to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism.” (link)

The papers do not reveal that there has been any discussion about privatising the NHS

• The papers only show that USTR ‘probed UK position on our “health insurance”
system’ (21-22 March 2018). The same document shows that the UK response made
clear that ‘Wouldn’t want to discuss particular health care entities… we need to
protect our needs; this would be something to discuss further down the line when we
come to consider what entities would count as 'enterprises'’. This reflects our clear
position that the NHS is not for sale and that any trade deal should only include
commercial enterprises.
• Labour staffers have been unable to point to any section of the document which
proves their claims. John Rentoul tweeted: ‘Haven’t had time to read the unredacted
documents yet, but Labour staff have and they don't seem able to point to
anything damning’ (Twitter, 27 November 2019, link).

Jeremy Corbyn has deliberately quoted passages out of context in an attempt to peddle his
conspiracy theories

• In his press conference, Jeremy Corbyn highlighted the following quote: ‘The impact
of some patent issues raised on NHS access to generic drugs (i.e. cheaper drugs) will
be a key consideration going forward’ (13-14 November 2017, p.51) and suggested
that this meant that the Government would allow drug prices to rise. This is a lie.
• Corbyn has quoted this section out of context. This was officials flagging a potential
issue that the UK has to avoid in the future trade talks.
• The conversation that the paper reports on was a preliminary conversation in which
the ‘US focus was on explaining their legislation and approach in FTAs’.
• The paper also notes that there was only a ‘limited discussion on pharmaceutical
protection’. The reason this was only a limited conversation was ‘given sensitivities in
this area related to the NAFTA negotiations’(13-14 November 2017, p.44)
• The meeting ended with an agreement for the US and UK teams to ‘identify
similarities and differences’ (13-14 November 2017, p.49)

The papers show that the United States is aware that the UK won’t accept any attempt to
put the NHS on the table

• The notes make clear that, at the very start of the discussions, that the US team are
aware that the UK won’t accept any attempt to put the NHS on the table: ‘Nursing
was the other profession that 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.’ (24-25
July 2017, p.24).

• Subsequent papers also state that ‘we do not currently believe the US has a major
offensive interest in this [health] space’ (March 2018, p.53).

Formal trade negotiations have not begun with the United States
• Jeremy Corbyn claimed that the trade negotiations are ‘at a very advanced stage’.

• This is completely untrue. The UK remains in the EU’s Customs Union and bound by
the principle of sincere cooperation, meaning it can’t formally agree independent
trade deals yet. The Government has also made clear that negotiations with the US
will begin after the UK leaves the EU (HM Government, link). The Government has
been clear that the preliminary conversations, which these papers cover, are just to
ensure that ‘both sides are well prepared to open trade negotiations after the UK
leaves the EU’ (HM Government, link).

These documents reveal that Jeremy Corbyn misled the public in the ITV debates last

• In the ITV leaders debate last week Jeremy Corbyn claimed that the documents
provide ‘full access for US products to our National Health Service’. There is no such
commitment anywhere in the documents despite Mr Corbyn implying he was reading
verbatim from the redacted documents (link)

Independent experts have confirmed that a future trade deal with the USA would not affect
the NHS

• The Centre for European Reform think tank has said public services would be
carved out of trade deals. Senior research fellow Sam Lowe said ‘Despite long-
running fears of a US trade deal-inspired privatisation of the National Health Service,
public services are largely carved out of free trade agreements, and that is unlikely to
change (New Statesman, 3 June 2019, link).

• Research fellows at the Centre for Economic Policy Research said it would be
very strange for a trade agreement to try to require a privatisation of a public
service. Meredith Crowley - university reader in international economics at the
University of Cambridge and research fellow at CEPR also said she could see ‘no real
reason why they could force some type of privatisation of the NHS’ (The UK in a
Changing Europe, Press Release, 5 June 2019, link).

• The Nuffield Trust have said any trade deal could not stop the NHS being a free,
universal service. Head of public affairs Mark Dayan said a trade deal ‘would not
have the power to stop the NHS being a free, universal service’ or to redesign the
funding model of a public service’. He also noted that trade deals the US has already
concluded with smaller countries with publicly-funded health systems, such as
Australia, do not contain provisions to redesign the funding model (Nuffield Trust,
Could the NHS be the price of a US trade deal?, 6 June 2019, link).

Jeremy Corbyn has deliberately misrepresented what the report says

• Jeremy Corbyn claimed that the UK has agreed to ‘everything is included unless
something is explicitly excluded’ It is not true that the UK has agreed to this and
it is not what is reflected in the document.
• The same document states, on page 40: ‘The discussion was a presentation of the US
approach, with the UK focus on trying to move the discussion onto investment rather
than really probe the US approach. As such the below hides a number of weaknesses
in the US approach. It is not an accurate portrayal of the strengths and weaknesses
between negative or positive listing in services. It is also misleading on a number of
the issues that occurred in the TTIP negotiations. It is however a good outline of the
US position on both services and investment’ (March 2018, p.40).

• In other words, this is not the same as saying that the UK has accepted, it was simply
the US setting a pitch for its approach. To attempt to present it in any other way is a
desperate attempt to peddle conspiracy theories.

• In the ITV leaders debate last week Jeremy Corbyn lied on television. Not once in
any of these documents can the sentence "full access for US products to our National
Health Service" be found, despite Mr Corbyn implying he was reading verbatim from
the redacted documents.

Labour’s false claims on drug pricing have already been debunked

• Independent analysis has shown that the figures that are being cited by Labour
are fundamentally flawed. Chris Morris from Fact Check acknowledged it attempts
to ‘crudely estimate what would happen in theory’. He said: the analysis would only
‘crudely estimate what would happen in theory if after a future trade deal the prices of
all medicines used in the NHS were the same of the prices of all of those medicines in
the US’ (BBC, Today, 5 November 2019)

The real threat to the NHS is Labour’s plan to give the EU total control of our trade

• The papers highlight the extensive power that the EU currently has over our
healthcare system via its powers over the trade: discussing ‘the pharma agreement
which Commissioner Malmstrom had signed three months after Ambassador Froman’
(13-14 November 2017).

• Labour’s manifesto makes clear that Corbyn’s deal will leave the EU in control of our
trade policy, forever. The manifesto states it will negotiate ‘A permanent and
comprehensive UK-wide customs union, which is vital to protect our manufacturing
industry and allows the UK to benefit from joint UK-EU trade deals, and is backed by
businesses and trade unions’ (Labour Party, Manifesto 2019, 21 November 2019,
link). This would mean that the EU is in full control of the UK’s trading policy, as can
be seen in the other customs union decisions that the EU has struck with neighbouring
countries (Decision 1/95, December 1995, link).

• There is no mention in the manifesto of the UK having any say over the EU’s trade
policy, despite Corbyn’s team previously saying that they would ‘ensure the UK has a
say and agreement in future trade deals’ (Labour, February 2018, accessed 21
November 2019, link).

• This means that, under Corbyn, we will not be in control of trade negotiations with
the US and we will not be able to stop the advance of agreements like TTIP - which
could contain harmful provisions for our NHS. Under Jeremy Corbyn, the British
public would have to rely on the European Commission, rather than a British Minister
accountable to the British Parliament, to stand up for the UK’s interests and to protect
the National Health Service. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s proposed Brexit ‘deal’, the UK
will have no say over any trade deal that the EU strikes with the US. And even if we
remain in the EU we will have next to no say – the House of Commons Library states
that, as an EU member, ‘Parliament cannot amend the treaty itself in any way’ (House
of Commons Library, December 2015, link).

• Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell know that this is a major threat to the NHS and
have a consistent record of opposition to an EU TTIP-style deal with the US:

o In February 2016 Jeremy Corbyn referred to the fact that thousands of Labour
activists had written to him criticising TTIP and calling on him to campaign to
scrap it. He said they were “concerned, rightly, that it could open up public
services to further privatisation” (Politico, 6 February 2016, link).
o He said that "Many thousands of people have written to me, with their
concerns about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (or TTIP)
the deal being negotiated, largely in secret, between the US and the EU."
(Independent, 2 June 2016, link).
o In 2015 McDonnell spoke at a rally against TTIP (Global Justice Now, 10
October 2015, link).
o He said: ‘I think what TTIP can do is…enable the corporations to steal from
us even more, to prevent us even tackling privatisation and forcing through
even further privatisation... And for that reason when this debate now starts in
the Labour Party, I will be saying very, very clearly we must oppose TTIP’
(John McDonnell, War on Want London rally, 10 October 2015).
o In 2016 John McDonnell criticised the TTIP deal between the EU and the US,
saying “it would keep in place the backdoor privatisations of our NHS”.
(Labour List, 27 October 2016, link).
o In 2016 McDonnell said: ‘We will not allow the undermining of workers’
rights and the regulatory environment... there'll be no more TTIPs. And yes
we'll refuse to sign up to CETA. But in addition to that we’ll be working with
other organisations to demonstrate what would be the criteria and agenda for
proper trade agreements’ (John McDonnell, the Hazards Conference, 31
August 2016, link).