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Labour exposes Tory plans to open up NHS to US firms

LABOUR today exposed secret trade talks between the US and the Tories — now at an “advanced stage” — that would pave the way for the NHS to be opened up to US pharmaceutical firms.

At a press conference today Jeremy Corbyn held up 451 pages of uncensored documents from US-British trade talks which show the NHS is up for grabs in a post-Brexit deal under a Conservative government.

The Labour leader said that evidence of six rounds of negotiations starting in July 2017 leaves PM Boris Johnson’s claims that the NHS would not be part of any trade talks “in absolute tatters.”

The documents make clear that, for US officials, “everything is included unless something is specifically excluded” and that “total market access” is the “baseline assumption” of any negotiations, he said.

British officials had reassured their US counterparts that they should “expect the UK to be a liberalising influence” and that the two countries could “fly the good flag for services liberalisation.”

Mr Corbyn said this would serve as a “green light” for US corporations to profit from Britain’s public services.

He said: “These reports pull back the curtain on the secrecy that’s being plotted for us all, behind closed doors, by the Conservative government. This is what they didn’t want you to know.”

In the documents, seen by the Star, US officials also state that the Obama administration had been “quite surprised” about the difficulty of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade talks with the European Union.

This was due to the EU Commission’s desire to approve sectors for possible trade individually, rather than giving blanket approval and explicit exemptions afterwards — as the US prefers.

US officials were also “horrified” that the EU “reserved the right to maintain discriminatory measures after the free-trade agreement was in place,” the papers say.

On pharmaceuticals pricing, Mr Corbyn said the papers showed talks had already been concluded between Britain and US on the lengthening of drug patents — which would make prices skyrocket.

Mr Corbyn referred to Humira — a drug used to treat Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis — which costs the NHS £1,409 a pack, while in the US the cost is almost six times higher at £8,115.

He said that, according to papers from the second meeting, British officials reported that “patent issues” around “NHS access to generic drugs will be a key consideration” in talks.

By the fourth meeting, he said, the officials were ready to “exchange text” and to “really take significant further steps.”

The Star also found that an official from the British government’s Intellectual Property Office was recorded advising US officials on patent courts in London.

He provided an overview of the legal system including two “low-cost options” for injunctions to stop makers of generic drugs from causing “unrecoverable losses to the innovator.”

Labour’s policy on pharmaceuticals is to establish a state-run company that would manufacture cheaper generic drugs for the NHS.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of public service union Unison, said the papers showed that the Tory government has “no scruples” about the NHS being “crippled by these greedy corporations and their overpriced wares.”

He said: “The cost of drugs alone will soar by hundreds of millions of pounds a week.

“The NHS is not for sale and must be protected.

“Any trade deal should not only exclude this beloved institution and other public services, but also prevent costly legal challenges in private investment courts.”

Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden said that Mr Johnson’s position on Brexit is “clearly dictated by what’s best for US corporations.”

Keep Our NHS Public co-chair Dr Tony O’Sullivan said: “Today’s revelation confirms our long-held suspicions that despite Johnson’s protestations, the NHS is indeed on the table in future trade negotiations.

”This should be a source of huge anxiety to us all and demolishes the Conservative’s ‘party of the NHS’ claim in one fell swoop.”

He said: “Voters have a clear choice on December 12. Elect a government willing to sell the NHS to the highest bidder, or vote to protect it from current, and all future, privatisation.”

Mr Johnson has denounced Mr Corbyn’s assertion that the NHS is up for grabs in a British-US trade deal as “an absolute invention.”

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the Labour leader’s statements were “conspiracy theories.”

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