Trade Agreements

Keep Our NHS Public doesn't just want to stop one potential Transatlantic sell-off. We won’t rest until our NHS is fully back in public hands – free for all, forever!

The NHS and Trade and Investment Agreements  - Trump’s fake reassurances

Whatever Trump says about the NHS being on or off the negotiating table, the fact is that – thanks to the 2012 Health and Social Care Act – parts of the NHS have been opened up to European and American markets for the last 6 years.

Many trade deals these days (so-called ‘new generation’ deals) cover not just goods, but trade in services. As the NHS has already been turned into a market, it may be included in trade deals unless it is explicitly excluded.

Until now, trade deals have been negotiated by the European Union on the UK’s behalf. Negotiations have been secretive and the UK Parliament has had no way to decisively veto an unsatisfactory deal. Following Brexit, there are fears that Trump’s trade deals will be modelled on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). This suggests that a UK/USA agreement will

  • remove most tariffs on trade,
  • cut regulation and so reduce government control over transnational corporations,
  • include a council for ‘regulatory co-operation that will allow corporations to influence draft UK legislation,
  • include a punitive investment protection mechanism for the benefit of multinational corporations (Investment Court System or ICS).

ICS raises particular concerns for the future of the NHS. The mechanism allows foreign corporations to use an international trade tribunal to sue the UK government for massive compensation if it introduces new policies (however beneficial for the public) that happen to affect corporate profits.  If ICS is included in any trade deal the UK agrees, it means that the growing privatisation of the NHS will be nigh on impossible to reverse.

In addition, it is feared that the USA will demand an end to NHS controls on the cost of pharmaceuticals, in favour of USA-style direct-marketing of drugs. If this happened, the costs of medicines would become unsustainable for the NHS.

Keep Our NHS Public's position on trade agreements

If the NHS is restored to a fully public service, without the involvement of the private sector, it would be protected from inclusion in trade agreements. KONP supports the demand for new legislation to reinstate the NHS as a public funded, publicly provided, comprehensive health service. This is the most crucial, infallible way of keeping the NHS out of trade.

Keep Our NHS Public is opposed to trade agreements that prioritise the interests of transnational corporations at the expense of the greater public good, including public services like the NHS. Instead our demands include:

  • Parliament to set the mandate for each treaty, following public consultation.
  • The use of domestic courts for dispute resolution, not ICS.
  • Amendment of Part 2 of the Constitutional Reform of Governance Act 2010, so that Parliament can debate and definitively decide whether to ratify any UK trade deal.

Further information

All Keep Our NHS Public articles relating to trade and investment deals can be found in our resource cabinet
Please see our most recent CETA briefing in our 2018 CETA fact sheet

New: 'NHS already on table - here's how Trump wants to sharpen the knives'

Very good review by Caroline Molloy of ourNHS/openDemocracy on the extent of infiltration into the NHS and methods used by corporates and their trade lobbyists.

The NHS is already on the table. But here's exactly how Trump wants to sharpen the knives