On Wednesday 27th October, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn brandished a 451-page dossier at a press conference, which he declared as proof for the Conservatives ‘breaking open our NHS for US corporations’ in US-UK trade talks back in 2017 and 2018.
Such a dossier is an advance from earlier in the election campaign, where Corbyn had only a redacted version of the documents to show during a live ITV debate with Boris Johnson. In particular, Corbyn said that US corporations were looking to ‘force up the price’ of drugs as part of a ‘toxic deal’ with President Trump, which would lead to ‘runaway privatisation’. He compared the prices of the drug Humira, which he says costs the NHS £1409 a packet, with the same packet costing £8115 in the USA – a result of ‘a patent regime rigged for the big pharmaceutical companies’, he states.
“Corbyn attacked Conservative leader Boris Johnson multiple times, branding his mantra ‘get Brexit done’ a ‘fraud’”
These low drug prices are largely a result of Nice (the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence), which caps the amount the NHS can spend on drugs. The trade talk documents show that the US want ‘full market access’ for UK drugs, which would greatly affect prices. They would be set competitively, with the drugs market in mind first, and not value for patients.
Corbyn attacked Conservative leader Boris Johnson multiple times, branding his mantra ‘get Brexit done’ a ‘fraud’, as well as questioning whether the NHS is ‘safe in [his] hands’. The move is part of a wider theme in Labour’s general election campaign to prioritise the NHS and other domestic policy over Brexit, contrary to the Conservatives.
“Boris Johnson has maintained that the service will not be for sale”
In return, Boris Johnson called the claims ‘nonsense’, and the conference has been accused of being a stunt to divert attention from Labour’s anti-semitism issue. It is being held after Corbyn’s refusal to outright apologise to Jewish groups for his party’s conduct during a BBC TV interview, as well as numerous condemnations from within Jewish communities. These range from open letters in newspapers signed by Jewish public figures, to a recent declaration by Britain’s chief rabbi that Corbyn would be a threat as PM.
It is worth noting that the documents detail preparatory meetings, held before formal talks, Nonetheless, this is the latest mark against long-held worries that the NHS will be further compromised as a result of leaving the EU. Though Boris Johnson has maintained that the service will not be for sale since becoming Prime Minister in July, it remains one of the key issues for voters.
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