Jeremy Corbyn has welcomed US President Donald Trump to Britain with a letter demanding he will not try to push medicine prices up through a post-Brexit trade deal.
To mark Mr Trump’s arrival in London for the start of the Nato summit, Mr Corbyn has written to him asking for reassurances that his administration will not try to include selling higher-priced US drugs to the NHS on its trade wish list.
Last week, the Labour Party leader called a press conference at which he brandished an unredacted report that gave details of meetings between US and UK officials, where they discussed the stipulations of a free trade deal between the two nations after Britain leaves the European Union.
The document included confirmation of a round of meetings “dedicated solely to patents and pharmaceuticals”, where officials explained how drugs were approved for use on the NHS and described a US request for “total market access” to UK public services – a form of privatisation – as a “baseline” for an agreement.
Any increase in the NHS drugs bill would be an unacceptable outcome of US-UK trade negotiationsJeremy Corbyn
In his letter, Mr Corbyn told the president he wanted “assurances” over the “prices paid to US drugs companies as a consequence of any such UK trade deal with the US”.
Labour has warned throughout the election campaign that allowing US medical companies to supply drugs to the NHS would push up the price of medicines.
Mr Corbyn told journalists at a rally in Hastings that a Labour administration would walk away from talks if the US insisted on elements of the NHS being up for grabs.
“We cannot allow our National Health Service to be put up for sale to American pharmaceutical companies,” he said.
Writing to Mr Trump, he stated: “As you will know, the potential impact of any future UK-US trade agreement on our National Health Service and other vital public services is of profound concern to the British public.
“A critical issue in this context is the cost of drugs to our NHS.
“The cost of patented drugs in the US is approximately 2.5 times higher than in the UK, and the price of the top 20 medicines is 4.8 times higher than in the UK.
“Any increase in the NHS drugs bill would be an unacceptable outcome of US-UK trade negotiations.
“Yet you have given a number of clear and worrying indications that this is exactly what you hope to achieve.”
Mr Corbyn also urged Mr Trump to:
– Accept the role of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) to set the threshold for the cost-effectiveness of drugs for the NHS
– Explicitly rule out any investor-state dispute settlement mechanism by which the UK Government could be sued for protecting public services
– Ensure NHS patient data is fully exempted from digital trade and data sharing provisions in the agreement
He told Mr Trump it would “go a long way to reassuring the British public” if he rowed back from the NHS-related negotiation aims seen in the leaked civil service paper on the UK-US talks.
Mr Corbyn wrote: “A revision of the US negotiating objectives along these lines would go a long way to reassuring the British public that the US government will not be seeking total market access to the UK public services – that the NHS will not be on the table in US-UK trade negotiations, that a US-UK trade deal will not open up NHS services to irreversible privatisation, and that the US government accepts that our NHS is not for sale in any form.”
Mr Corbyn sent a letter with similar demands to the Prime Minister on Monday, the eve of the Nato summit.
Air Force One will land in the UK on Monday evening as Mr Trump prepares for a showdown with allies over the funding of Nato.
He has previously said it would be “so bad” for Britain if Mr Corbyn was to become prime minister.
Mr Trump told Nigel Farage’s LBC radio programme in October: “Corbyn would be so bad for your country, he’d be so bad, he’d take you on such a bad way. He’d take you into such bad places.”