As the rogue Conservative government continues to shamble onward toward its unstated goal of a no-deal Brexit, the spectre of a future one-sided trade deal with the United States has once again raised its head alongside the potential for wholesale NHS privatisation and price hikes.
The “special relationship” has always been a one-sided affair, with Britain cast as the needy puppy ready to please their U.S. masters in order to keep some semblance of global importance. In truth, the U.S. feels no particular diplomatic affection for the U.K with both Israel and Saudi Arabia being seen as far more important allies in the post-9/11 world. Britain is useful, certainly, but any belief that Britain will receive special status or favours should be discarded immediately.
Make no mistake, for Donald Trump any future trade deal is about America and America only. While one could argue that is exactly what his job entails as the U.S. President, when the “America first” mantra trickles down from above, the consequences of such hard-line negotiations will be catastrophic for Britain and for the NHS.
Alex Azar, the US Health and Human Services Secretary stated quite clearly in 2018 that the U.S. would be using their muscle to hike drug prices around the world in an effort to lower them domestically for American patients.
“On the foreign side, we need to, through our trade negotiations and agreements, pressure them and so we pay less, they pay more. It shouldn’t be a one-way ratchet. We all have some skin in this game. The reason why they are getting better net prices than we get is their socialised system.”Alex Azar
A desperate Britain will be thrust into the jaws of the American capitalist machine, one that has little interest in the health or wellbeing of American citizens, let alone British ones. Chlorinated chicken, pink slime and the Martin Shkreli school of pharmaceuticals are what awaits Britain at the negotiating table and both Boris Johnson and the Conservative party are ready to start selling.
In fact, they already have.
As revealed by Channel 4 Dispatches, talks have already taken place between senior civil servants and representatives of the big American pharmaceutical companies, both on and off the record. These meetings, surrounding price hikes for drugs supplied to the NHS, have taken place in both London and Washington with the last happening in August.
Speaking during last night’s episode of Dispatches, lawyer Tahir Amin believes that the discussions will surround the removal of barriers that stop Big Pharma from setting their own prices for drugs and controlling the market.
Jeremy Corbyn raised the subject in the House and later added on Twitter that “the Tories would put our NHS at the mercy of US pharmaceutical, tech and private healthcare companies. We will stop a No Deal Brexit and Johnson’s sell-out Brexit deal.”
The actions of the Conservative party regarding the NHS should come as no surprise, however, with the party being responsible for years of attempts at stealth privatisation, disruption and for the defunding of essential services through deadly programs of austerity. It was earlier this year that Boris Johnson was filmed telling fellow Tories that the NHS “needs reform” and adding that the health service was “not getting the kind of support and indeed the kind of changes and management that it needs”.
Once again, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump seem to have a synergy, Trump declaring earlier this year that the NHS was “on the table” for trade talks. The suggestion drew outrage from the public, Labour and even some of the few more moderate Tories, yet the latest revelations from Dispatches reveals that Trump was for once correct and the NHS has indeed been placed firmly on the table by Johnson and the current government.
“There is a moral point. If NHS services continue to be free in this way, they will continue to be abused like any free service. If people have to pay for them, they will value them more.”Boris Johnson
Figures in the Trump administration and American health lobby have long made it clear that the NHS is their number one target in any trade negotiations and you have to believe that while the primary objective is profit-driven, there is also both a domestic ideological slant. With Medicare for all becoming a rallying cry amongst many Democrats, certainly amongst younger and more active Bernie Sanders supporters, the desire to “show” Americans and the world that a socialist created NHS “doesn’t work” is an obsession for many on the American right-wing.
“America will not be cheated any longer, and especially will not be cheated by foreign countries. In some cases, medicine that costs a few dollars in a foreign country costs hundreds of dollars in America for the same pill, with the same ingredients, in the same package, made in the same plant. That is unacceptable. It’s unfair. It’s ridiculous. It’s not going to happen any longer. It’s time to end the global freeloading once and for all.”Donald Trump
The Labour Party has sought to ensure that the NHS will not be part of any future negotiations with the United States surrounding a trade deal, forcing a vote on the matter as an amendment to the Queen’s Speech last week.
“The truth is that thanks to the Tory reorganisation of the NHS, where billions of pounds of health contracts are privatised every year, the NHS is on the table in any trade deal with Donald Trump. The Tory sell-out deal will see US corporates running more NHS services while big US pharmaceutical companies force our NHS to pay more for vital medicines. Under the Tories, NHS privatisation has more than doubled. The only way to protect our NHS is to bin the Tory privatisation rules and restore a public NHS for all.”Jonathan Ashworth MP
The vote was defeated when the Conservatives voted against the motion and the Lib Dems shamefully abstained, once again exposing themselves as the enablers of Boris Johnson and the Conservative government.
“Parliament had the opportunity to signal its intent to end disastrous privatisation and protect our NHS from trade deals. We’re incredibly disappointed that they didn’t take that chance, despite the best efforts of Labour, the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and the Independent Group for Change. What the vote has shown us is who in parliament will protect our NHS and who will not. We’ll be making clear to the public which side MPs have picked ahead of an election.”Ellen Lees, We Own It
The Conservative government and Boris Johnson have proven themselves time and again to be an existential threat to the NHS and to those requiring medical treatment up and down the country. Boris Johnson is willing to force patients into paying more for medication, all to ensure that American citizens have theirs cheaper, to secure a one-sided trade deal and to win the plaudits of an increasingly unhinged right-wing. This is a betrayal of not only the NHS but the very people he is elected to represent. At the next general election, the Tories must not be allowed to get away with yet another betrayal, nor must the Lib Dems be allowed to get away with enabling him to do so. Only with Labour is the future of the NHS assured.
“The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”Nye Bevan