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No, MPs are told… NHS is NOT for sale in trade talks

Pledge: David
Lidington,
standing in for
Theresa May,
speaks at PMQs
yesterday PICTURE: PA

THERESA MAY’S deputy has insisted the NHS ‘is not and will not be up for sale’ in any post-Brexit trade talks with the US.

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington was pressed by Labour in the Commons after Donald Trump said the NHS would be ‘on the table’ before the president later rowed back on his comments.

Mr Lidington told MPs: ‘The prime minister has been very clear and she spoke for everyone in the government and on this side of the House — when it comes to trade negotiations, the NHS is not and will not be up for sale.’

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey — deputising for Jeremy Corbyn who, together with Mrs May, was attending D-Day 75th anniversary commemorations — accused the prime minister of being ‘silent’ on the issue of US companies accessing health services.

She said: ‘The president certainly seemed to think the NHS was on the table yesterday, so does the [international] trade secretary [Liam Fox]. The prime minister did nothing to allay concerns.’

But a trade policy expert told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Mr Trump had been ‘right the first time’ and ‘everything is potentially up for grabs in a trade agreement’.

David Henig, UK director at the European Centre For International Political Economy, said the US’s biggest issue was the price of medicines. ‘The NHS is not just a big buyer in its own right, it’s used as a reference price for up to 25 per cent of global pharmaceutical sales,’ he said.

‘US companies want the NHS to be paying more. The US pays three times more for drug prices than the NHS and they think that if they have more access to people who set the prices in the NHS, prices might go up.’

Meanwhile a group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs warned delays to Brexit posed ‘an existential threat’ to the Conservatives.

The European Research Group said in a report that it must be ‘the unshakeable policy’ of the government to leave the EU by October 31 — and withhold the £39billion divorce bill if there is no deal.