Trade Bill threatens our NHS and crushes scrutiny, say campaigners

"The Bill leaves our NHS open to further privatisation by Donald Trump and his private healthcare cronies."

The Tories’ flagship Trade Bill contains no protection for the NHS from privatisation, campaigners warned today.

Health campaigners say the Bill – which sets the framework for how the UK will make deals with other nations after Brexit – fails to give Parliament votes on trade agreements, handing the government ‘unchecked powers on trade’. MPs vote on the second stage of the Bill on Wednesday night.

Green MP Caroline Lucas proposed an amendment to this Bill, calling for the House of Commons to decline to give a Second Reading to the Bill as it ‘fails to uphold democratic scrutiny’.

Campaigning organisation We Own It have partnered up with cross-party health campaigning organisation Keep Our NHS Public, and many other organisations to demand that the NHS is kept out of any future trade negotiations.

petition started by Keep Our NHS Public imploring the government to keep the NHS out of US trade deals now stands at over 1.2m signatures.

Over 5,000 people from all over Britain have written to their MP to express their concerns over the NHS forming part of any future trade deal and over 27,000 have signed a petition from campaign organisers We Own It requesting specific protections for the NHS ahead of a vote on the trade bill this Wednesday.

Dr John Puntis, Co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public and paediatrician says:

“Our precious and beloved NHS must not be ‘on the table’ in trade negotiations with the US. We don’t believe our Prime Minister when he says it isn’t. The NHS is in acute danger of being used as a pawn to be traded in US-UK trade deals, where the US is by far the stronger partner.

“This Trade Bill must include legal bindings that protect the NHS now and in the future from any empty promises and loopholes.Trump wants to make profits from our valuable patient data, let US-based companies take over providing some NHS services, deprive our universal and comprehensive service of its controlled drug costs and flood our markets with unhealthy food and drink.

“More and more private companies – especially US ones – already profit from our NHS. Keep Our NHS Public wants a complete re-nationalisation of the National Health Service. Trade – especially in health – should be in the public interest, not for private enrichment.”

Dr Sonia Adesara, junior doctor and member of Keep Our NHS Public who started the petition, says:

“It’s frustrating that during this pandemic we’re still having to fight this…Despite the promises from Johnson during the election, it offers no protections for our NHS. This crisis has shown how vital it is to have a universal public health system – we cannot allow this to be degraded through the backdoor.”

We Own It’s campaigns officer Ellen Lees described the campaign against the bill as a “popular uprising”:

“The government has said it wants to keep the NHS off the table in trade deals. But right now it’s pushing ahead with a Trade Bill that contains absolutely no protection for our NHS, leaving it open to further privatisation by Donald Trump and his private healthcare cronies. At the time when we need it most, the government should be defending and supporting our NHS, not offering it up on a plate to Donald Trump.

“The public understands this. That’s why thousands of them have been taking action to demand the Trade Bill is amended to protect the NHS once and for all. This is nothing less than a popular uprising. We don’t want our NHS privatised even further through a trade deal.

“Now it’s time for MPs of all parties to step up to the plate. They have the power to take the NHS off the table once and for all by amending the Trade Bill. And as Boris Johnson has promised to keep the NHS off the table, the public – 84% of which wants the NHS to remain in public ownership – will keep holding him to that promise.”

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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