UK-US Trade Deal: NHS off the Table

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UK-US Trade Deal: NHS off the Table

UK-US Trade Deal: NHS off the Table

Trump’s officials are “very enthusiastic” about the prospect of a trade deal – or a series of mini agreements – and want to make progress quickly.

But the British side is adamant it wants to secure the right deal rather than a quick agreement, even though it is seen as a major post-Brexit prize.

A UK Government spokesman said: “Of course we want to move quickly, but we want to get the right deal that works for both sides.”

Trump’s officials have privately been making clear they would be “100%” behind a no deal Brexit ahead of Sunday’s meeting.

UK sources believe they’re deliberately playing up a trade deal to help No 10 in its crunch talks with Brussels, the Telegraph reported.

The pair met for their first bilateral meeting at the G7 summit in France, with Johnson saying he had made clear the UK’s NHS health service was off the table in trade talks with the US.

The new leader is walking the tightrope at the gathering, trying to keep European allies on side, whilst not angering Trump — he said trade talks with the United States would be tough but there were huge opportunities for British businesses in the US market.

During Trump’s visit in July after confusion over the NHS been part of a US_UK trade deal Trump back tracked from his confused statement of saying everything remained on the table to a clear statement saying the NHS will not be part of any trade deal with the UK. LINK 

Proof is in the Pudding

What’s on or off the table will be a case of Proof is in the Pudding.

However Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner warned that a global recession was “much more likely” as a result of the “protectionist and aggressive trade policies” Mr Trump is proposing after Brexit.

Barry Gardiner layed out the red lines for a US-UK trade deal safeguarding the NHS

Barry Gardiner stated on the Sophy Ridge Show:

“What we have is a situation because of what the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives did in government in the health and social care act.”

“Competition is now enshrined within the National Health Service and that means any services in the NHS are open to competition and they are open in a trade deal to attack and you don’t actually have to specifically mention the words NHS in that trade deal.”

“We in the Labour Party are absolutely insistent on in order to protect our National Health Service is there should be no investor-state dispute settlement system in the trade deal.”

“There should be no negative list system in the trade deal and there should be no ratchet influences in the trade deal and those are the three things which would actually ensure that Boris Johnson is not just talking that the NHS is safe but that we in the Labour Party will ensure it’s safe by not voting for anything in Parliament that that does not preclude the three other and it’s not just this it actually protects other areas of our economies  as well.

“That takes three ways, one is the ratchet clauses that occurred within trade deals. One is the negative list system and the third is what is known as isds the Investor state dispute settlement procedures “

“The ISDS procedures allow foreign companies to sue our government if we introduce public health policies which they believe would damage their future profits. These have been used in countries where tobacco company for its intense sued government for introducing paper for packaging.”

“The Slovakian government moved its health service from being insurance pay system immediately after it became independent to a more public health like the UK National Health Service it was sued for billions of pounds.”

“There are three things in a trade deal Labour wants covering, one, is the ratchet clauses that occurred within trade deals, one is the negative list system and the third is what is known as ISDS the investor state dispute settlement procedures”

The EU and the NHS 

Everyone that cares about the NHS should be in full agreement with Labour’s shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner. However they should also be fully aware that CETA the EU trade deal with Canada contains ISDS procedures that will allow foreign companies to sue our government if we introduce public health policies which they believe would damage their future profits.

The EU’s Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada could unleash a wave of corporate lawsuits against Canada, the EU and its member states – including through the Canadian subsidiaries of US multinational corporations. This is the result of an in-depth analysis of CETA’s investor rights by Corporate Europe Observatory and 14 other environmental NGOs, citizens’ groups and workers unions from both sides of the Atlantic.

CETA and the NHS

CETA is very much about ‘liberalisation’ or opening up services to investment from international investors. If a member state does not exclude services in a trade agreement like CETA, it’s making an almost irreversible commitment to keeping those services permanently open to these investors. So, as CETA has been agreed by the EU Parliament while the UK is still a member of the EU, ICS will come into force if the treaty has been ratified by all the individual EU member states.

This means that for some years to come, a future UK government planning to reverse privatisation of the NHS would risk being sued by any Canadian corporations that had invested in the NHS (see ‘CETA and Brexit’, below). The UK government could also be sued by other transnational health companies with subsidiaries based in Canada – it’s worth remembering that 80% of US companies operating in the EU also have bases in Canada.

Although the European Commission and UK government state that health services are exempted from CETA, there is concern that the definition of health services is too narrow and they will not be protected. And as mentioned above, CETA includes a ‘ratchet’ clause which locks in any move towards the privatisation of services, meaning that services cannot be returned to their position pre-CETA.

Plus, because CETA uses the ‘negative list’ approach, only services actually listed in the agreement are clearly excluded from it. This means that new types of health services and medical technologies that might emerge in future – and that cannot be foreseen now – will not be excluded.

Just as Barry Gardiner pointed out Competition is now enshrined within the National Health Service and that means any services in the NHS are open to competition and they are open in a trade deal to attack and you don’t actually have to specifically mention the words NHS in that trade deal.

In addition, the kind of access that CETA gives to procuring goods and services on behalf of the government could restrict the UK government’s ability to support local and not-for-profit providers and lead to more NHS jobs being outsourced to private firms, where staff are often forced to do the same work with worse pay and working conditions. Apparently,

In CETA, governments have already signed up several sectors to mandatory transatlantic competitive tendering when they want to purchase supplies and services – an effective means for privatisation by gradually transferring public services to for-profit providers.

mandatory transatlantic competitive tendering

CETA’s chapter on labour rights is not enforceable, and so could undermine the rights of workers in public services like the NHS, as well as setting a precedent for TTIP, this as now been resurrected, the EU and US are back in trade talks as from April 2019.

Price controls on goods such as medicines could be removed if these are seen as barriers to trade or to limit the profits of transnational corporations such as drug companies. This could have serious implications for the public purse.

Opening up long-term care to  multinational investors could also lead to asset-stripping by financial investors (the cause of the collapse of Southern Cross in the UK, where a number of  residential care homes had to close). LINK

Parliament has passed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU by a vote of 315 to 36.

Labour abstained from voting on CETA but suffered a rebellion after MPs backed a huge trade deal with Canada – despite it being branded “secretive” and “marred by controversy”.

MPs, most of them Tories, voted 315-36 for the 2,255-page CETA deal in the House of Commons today after a debate lasting just 90 minutes.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party refused to back the deal – saying it was “conducted in secrecy and with minimal consultation” and had prompted huge protests on the streets.

But 14 Labour MPs defied orders to abstain on the vote, and backed CETA

14 Labour MPs who backed trade deal CETA

  • Rushanara Ali
  • Ian Austin
  • Adrian Bailey
  • Luciana Berger
  • Ben Bradshaw
  • Mike Gapes
  • Stephen Kinnock
  • Chris Leslie
  • Pat McFadden
  • Catherine McKinnell
  • Emma Reynolds
  • Gavin Shuker
  • Owen Smith
  • Chuka UmunnaSpeaking ahead of the vote yesterday Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want, said: “If CETA passes through parliament today, it will be a nail in the coffin of British democracy. Our message to MPs is clear: vote no to CETA. Do it for our public services, for our economy, so we can eat safe food and breathe clean air. That’s what it means to take back control.”
Fight to save the NHS
Fight to save the NHS

CETA and Brexit

As CETA has been ratified by the European Parliament – i.e. before the British exit from the EU has been negotiated –  the UK is temporarily included in the deal. EU law and treaties will still apply to the UK until it has formally left the Union, a process that may take from two to five years. Investments made by Canadian corporations (or those multinationals with subsidiaries in Canada) between the implementation of CETA and the UK’s departure from the EU will continue to be protected by the investment protection measure, Investment Court System (ICS) for a further 20 years.

As mentioned above, the European Commission reluctantly decided that CETA has to be a ‘mixed’ agreement and so needs to come to EU member states’ parliaments for ratification.  But it’s unclear how the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU will affect its role in the ratification of the treaty. For example, even supposing the UK had an effective way to veto the deal, it’s unclear whether its veto would be seen to have any legitimacy by the other EU member states.

Remaining in the EU the NHS is at as much a risk if not more than leaving the EU with a US-UK trade deal that procures these redlines.

G7: It will be ‘touch and go’ whether UK gets Brexit deal with EU, says Johnson

Boris Johnson said the chances of a Brexit deal are “touch and go” in interviews with British television media on the sidelines of the G7 summit.

He has previously said the odds of a no-deal Brexit were “a million to one”.

“Let me give you a metaphor,” Johnson told ITV. “I swam round that rock this morning. From here you cannot tell there is a gigantic hole in that rock. There is a way through.”

“My point to the EU is that there is a way through, but you can’t find the way through if you just sit on the beach.”

Johnson insisted that he and Trump were “unanimous” on their views about animal welfare rights being protected in any trade deal and the NHS being “off the table.”

He also confirmed that Britain would withhold £39 billion of the Brexit divorce bill if there was no deal.

The current Withdrawal Agreement brokered by the EU and former PM Theresa May is “totally unacceptable,” he said, as it “would keep us locked in the EU’s trading arrangements and in the lunar pull of EU law without being able to have a say.”

A new Brexit deal is “touch and go” but failure to reach an agreement would be the EU’s fault for not being willing to scrap the Irish border backstop, he said.

It came after US President Donald Trump told Johnson on Sunday morning that Brexit Britain will have a major trade deal with the United States, adding the new British prime minister was the right man to take his country out of the European Union.

 

 

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