In a press conference on 27 November 2019, Jeremy Corbyn has revealed unredacted documents about secret US-UK trade talks.
If you watched the first TV debate between me and Boris Johnson, you’ll have seen me hold up these censored, blacked-out reports of secret US-UK talks about breaking open our NHS to US corporations and driving up the cost of medicines. You’ll have seen Boris Johnson lose his cool, very angrily react saying it was “an absolute invention” and “completely untrue.” He told the country there were “no circumstances whatsoever in which his government or any Conservative government” would put the NHS on the table in any trade negotiations.
What I have here is something I can reveal to you 451 pages of unredacted documents and information. All of it here. His government released this [holds up redacted version]. We have since obtained this [holds up unredacted version]. Which is a very different version of events.
Perhaps he’d like to explain why these documents confirm the US is demanding the NHS is on the table in the trade talks?
These uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson’s denials in absolute tatters. Voters need to ask themselves some very serious questions: is the NHS safe in Boris Johnson’s hands? We’ve now got evidence that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale. He tried to cover it up in a secret agenda but today it’s been exposed. Now we know the truth, when Johnson says, ‘get Brexit done’, it’s a fraud on the British people. This is the reality. Years of bogged down negotiations and our NHS is up for sale.
This election is now a fight for the survival of our National Health Service. As a public service free for all at the point of need.
So for the want of any doubt, let me give this reassurance: Labour will never ever treat our NHS as a bargaining chip in trade talks with anybody. We will never let Donald Trump get his hands on our NHS. Because our NHS is not for sale.
These reports cover six rounds of talks running from July 2017 until just a few months ago. The meetings took place in both Washington DC and London. The six rounds should be taken as one ongoing negotiation. We are talking here about secret talks for a deal with Donald Trump after Brexit. A deal that will shape our country’s future.
These reports pull back the curtain on the secrecy that’s being plotted for us all, behind closed doors, by the Conservative government. This is what they didn’t want you to know. So let me take you through some key points.
Let me begin with medicine pricing. Remember, Labour and experts said big US corporations want to force up the price our NHS pays for drugs as part of the toxic deal being negotiated with Trump. The Conservatives said this was nonsense. The documents show that we were right. In fact, negotiations have advanced even further than we feared they had. The US and UK have already finished initial discussion on lengthening patents for medicines.
Longer patents mean only one thing – more expensive drugs. Lives will be put at risk as a result of this. Many out-of-patent medicines available cheaply here are vastly more expensive under patent law in the US. The drug Humira for Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis costs our NHS £1,409 a packet. In the US, the same packet costs £8,115. Get the difference – £1,409 in our NHS, £8,115 in the USA. One of the reasons for US drug prices being on average 250% of those here is a patent regime rigged for the big pharmaceutical companies.
Dr Andrew Hill has warned the NHS could have to hand over £500 million a week more for medicines following a toxic Trump deal.
If you look at the readout of the second meeting, on page 51, UK officials report that “patent issues” around “NHS access to generic drugs will be a key consideration” in talks. US officials have “pushed hard,” the reports says, for longer patents for US drug companies. You can also see on page 132 of the report of the fourth meeting, where drug patents are being discussed, that officials are ready to “exchange text” which is trade-negotiator-speak for it being at a very advanced stage. And they say they are ready to, I quote, “really take significant further steps.”
Let’s be frank, the US is not going to negotiate to sell its own medicines for less. President Trump himself never tires of complaining about what he calls the “unreasonably low prices” other countries pay for medicines. The White House even has a webpage attacking so-called “foreign freeloading” – that’s what they’re accusing our NHS of. Big pharma has ripped off and imperilled the health of the American people for years. Now these secret reports show they’re looking to do the same to us – if the Conservatives are elected on December 12th.
Labour has been warning that NHS services will also be on the table in trade talks for a sell-out deal with Trump. After all, that’s exactly what Trump said when he visited this country in June. He said and I quote: “When you’re dealing in trade, everything is on the table NHS or anything else.” The Tories have denied it, but the documents show that on this occasion, Trump was right and so were we. The new breed of trade deals are not only – or even mainly – about tariffs on goods at the border. They are also about services – including our health service. And these documents make clear that for the US, to quote page 41 of the third meeting report, “everything is included unless something is specifically excluded.”
They want, I quote: “Total market access” as the “baseline assumption of the trade negotiations.”
“Total market access.”
But surely you can’t believe that British officials would demand the NHS be excluded? Apparently not. In fact, on behalf of the Conservative government, officials reassured their counterparts that “the US should expect the UK to be a liberalising influence” and that together they could “fly the good flag for services liberalisation.” That’s a green light for breaking open Britain’s public services so corporations can profit from. So now we know, direct from the secret reports that they never wanted you to see.
The US is demanding that our NHS is on the table in negotiations for a toxic deal – it’s already being talked about in secret. That could lead to runaway privatisation of our health service. Mega-corporations see Johnson’s alliance with Trump as a chance to make billions from the illness and sickness of people in this country. And if the Conservatives have their way and this deal goes forward, the changes I’ve revealed will be almost irreversible.
Officials have discussed a system to give corporations the power to sue our country. This is not only a plot against our NHS. It is a plot against the whole country. These sell-out negotiations with Trump cover everything from food safety, to gender discrimination rules, to workers’ rights. I’ll leave it to you journalists as experts to comb through these secret reports and expose the biggest threats. But let me give you a few pointers.
How about chlorine-washed chicken on our dinner tables?
Have a look at the second meeting, on page 42 and 43, where the US even agrees to share its “public lines” to help our government with its “media narratives.”
You might want to look at how Trump’s America absolutely refuses, absolutely refuses, to even mention climate change in the deal – see the second meeting, page 17.
On page one of meeting six for the US advocating a No Deal Brexit saying that would mean there’d be “all to play for” in a deal with Trump.
What’s at stake in a deal with Trump could not be more important for our country. In this election the Conservatives want you to vote blind, keeping millions of us in the dark about their plans. But these reports, first obtained in censored form by campaigners in this room, shine a light on this plot.
So it seems to me that it’s now on Boris Johnson to explain how all of this is an “absolute invention.” you heard his words on the video we just showed. To explain why he denied the very things we can now read in black and white. He must now come clean about the Conservatives’ sell-out plans are for our NHS. Labour will not let this rest because, unlike the Conservatives, we’re not on the side of the billionaires and the bankers. We’re on the side of the nurse, the doctor, the patient and the people and we will never sell out our National Health Service. I’ll now ask our colleagues, friends from the National Health Service are here today to help us and they will pass around some copies of these documents and then Barry and I will take questions from you.
This topic was first mentioned in a documentary on TV by the Channel 4 Dispatches programme, which asserted that the price the NHS pays for US medicines could rise steeply in any future trade deal with the United States