Theresa May’s non-answer to Vince Cable’s question at PMQs today about whether a future trade deal with the US will safeguard the NHS could end up as being one of the turning points of the Brexit debate.
One of the huge advantages of the EU is that you have a lot more clout if you approach a protectionist like Trump with 27 of your mates rather than if you show up on your own.
Watch the exchange here:
The text is below:
Sir Vince Cable
The Prime Minister knows that one of the key objectives of American trade negotiators in any future deal after Brexit is to secure access for American companies to do business in the NHS. Will she give an absolute guarantee that the NHS will be excluded from the scope of those negotiations? Will she also confirm that she has made it absolutely clear to President Trump in her conversations with him that the NHS is not for sale?
The Prime Minister
We are starting the discussions with the American Administration, first of all looking at what we can already do to increase trade between the US and the United Kingdom—even before the possibility of any free trade agreement. The right hon. Gentleman does not know what the American Administration are going to say about their requirements for that free trade agreement. We will go into those negotiations to get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom.
The BBC’s Norman Smith felt that this would not be the end of the matter.
Hmmm.. can see this being followed up. PM declines to rule out allowing US companies to bid for NHS contracts in trade talks #PMQs
— norman smith (@BBCNormanS) February 7, 2018
Speaking after PMQs, Vince said the PM’s answer was pathetic.
The Prime Minister’s non-answer to my question today can only infer that our NHS is indeed for sale under the Conservatives.
Her pathetic non-committal response, failing to even mention our health service once, stands in stark contrast to guarantees given in 2015 by the EU trade negotiator with the US during the TTIP negotiations that our NHS would be protected.
Unfortunately Brexit Britain, standing on our own, will be in a far weaker negotiating position.
Now, I wonder if there will be a social media campaign to raise awareness of this from our clever digital people.This is an issue that needs to resonate beyond the Remainers’ echo chamber. The NHS, or extra money for it, was a crucial part of Leave’s win. If Leave voters understood the dangers to the NHS, they would care about that a lot more than the odd few hundred million chlorinated chicken that would no doubt be heading our way.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings