Wednesday 27 November 2019

Of Course US Corporations Want Access to the UK’s NHS – We haven’t got much else to Offer Them

After the, ahem, unusual intervention by a faith leader into the UK General Election, with claims by the UK’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, of antisemitism in the Labour party, today the campaign returned to more substantial matters. To be clear, this is an internal party matter, not handled well admittedly, but not exclusive to the Labour party either.  

A leaked document about the ongoing trade talks between the UK and US, appears to prove that the US wants the NHS to be part of any future trade deal between the two nations. The British based radical NGO, Global Justice Now, obtained the redacted version of the document through a Freedom of Information request, brandished by the Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn at last week’s televised leadership debate, has been revealed in full, all 451 pages of it.

Global Justice Now have released a statement after seeing the full version, in part reproduced below:

No wonder the government didn’t want us to see these papers: they clearly show the British negotiators being bullied by Trump’s administration, and Boris Johnson dancing to the tune of US big business. Boris Johnson’s position on Brexit is clearly dictated by what’s best for US corporations, even when he knows this will be worse for the British economy and British welfare.   

  • The US pushing lower food standards on Britain post Brexit, including allowing imports of chlorine-washed chickens (2nd working group, p42), less nutritional labelling on foods (2nd working group, p42), and less protection for regional food like stilton cheese (1st working group, p41). The US offered to help the UK government ‘sell’ chlorine chicken to a sceptical British public and stated that parliamentary scrutiny of food standards is ‘unhelpful’ (2nd working group, pp42-43).
  • The US banning any mention of climate change in a US-UK trade deal (2nd working group, p17).
  • US officials threatening UK civil servants that they would undermine US trade talks if they supported certain EU positions in international forums (5th working group, p35).
  • The US suggesting a ‘corporate court system’ in a US-UK deal, which would allow big business to sue the British government, in secret and without appeal, for anything they regard as ‘unfair’ (4th working group, pp92-98, 5th working group, p35). Recent similar cases have included suing governments for trying to phase out use of coal.
  • US officials pushing a far reaching proposals on the digital economy, giving Big Tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon sweeping freedoms to move and use our online data (2nd working group, pp30-31, 4th working group, p22), which would make taxation and regulation of these companies more difficult and prohibit Labour proposals for a public broadband service (4th working group, pp99-100).
  • Threats to public services like the NHS, via sweeping services liberalisation (3rd working group, pp41-42). The British government would need to exclude everything not subject to liberalisation in order to protect public services, while bringing formerly public services like the mail, or rail companies back into public ownership would be much harder.
  • US officials making a further threat to NHS in terms of medicine pricing policy, with special concern about Brits paying more for cancer medicines which the US feels Britain doesn’t pay enough for (4th working group, pp121-132). Trade negotiators have received special lobbying from pharmaceutical corporations as part of the trade talks (5th working group, pp43-44).
  • US officials demanding US experts and multinational corporations are able to participate in standard-setting in Britain post Brexit (4th working group, p58-59).
  • A promise by both sides to keep talks secret from the public (2nd working group, p5 & 8).
None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who has thought about what a future trade deal with the US would likely entail. US health and pharmaceutical corporations have been itching to expand into the NHS for years. All of the other areas the US is interested in mentioned above, are also unsurprising. Why would the US, or anybody else for that matter, give the UK a better deal than it presently has inside the EU?

The deal the EU has with the US, allows it access, on a limited basis in many areas, to 500 million consumers, but the UK can only muster 65 million consumers, so we will need to offer something that the EU will not. That means lower standards in employment, environmental and consumer protection standards. They will have us over a barrel, where we will have to agree to anything. It is not rocket science.

The only surprise to me, is that Genetically Modified food produce doesn’t appear to have been brought into the talks, yet at least.

This why the US is hostile to the UK having any kind of close relationship in future with the EU, because that would suggest at least some alignment with EU standards, and so bar what is being suggested in the US/UK trade talks. It is also why the Tory UK government doesn’t really want a close trade deal with the EU, as that would effectively make a trade deal with the US impossible.

The Tories want to undercut the EU on standards, and so make the UK more attractive to trading partners other countries. Japan has already said it will not duplicate the deal it has with EU, because the UK can’t offer as much as the EU, they want concessions from the UK.

Of course the UK could refuse to enter into the arrangements that US and others will want,  but then it is likely we won’t get any trade deals, and will be permanently on WTO trade rules, with sky high tariffs and which no other nation on earth relies on. The UK will have no choice but to agree to these things in reality, whatever denials are issued by the Tories.

At least this all now out in the open and I hope the British people will think long and hard about electing a government in just over two week's time, and reject the future that the Tories will give us.   

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