The U.K. has vowed to protect the NHS in trade talks with the U.S. | Scott Barbour/Getty Images
UK strategy for US trade talks promises to protect NHS, food safety standards
Updated 3/2/20, 2:18 PM CET
LONDON — The National Health Service “is not, and never will be, for sale,” the U.K. government promised as it unveiled its plan for a trade deal with the U.S.
A new document setting out the British negotiating objectives says: “The Government has been clear that when we are negotiating trade agreements, we will protect the National Health Service (NHS). Our objectives reinforce this. The NHS will not be on the table. The price the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table. The services the NHS provides will not be on the table.”
It adds: “The NHS is not, and never will be, for sale to the private sector, whether overseas or domestic.”
Elsewhere, the document insists the government will not compromise on “our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”
The two issues are perhaps the most contentious in public discussion about trade with the U.S. after Brexit. Campaigners fear American firms will be able to bid for NHS contracts, while pharmaceutical companies will break down the protections in the NHS against higher drug prices.
Farmers meanwhile are worried that the U.K. could allow food imports produced to a lower standard than is legal in Britain, such as chicken washed in chlorine or hormone-treated beef, and thereby undercut their businesses.