The NHS is the nation’s proudest and most beloved institution. For more than 70 years, it has been there for all of us, through the highs and lows, from cradle to grave – we all have a personal connection in some way.
As we prepare to leave the European Union, we are working hard to build an independent trade policy that allows our economy to flourish, creating new jobs and setting Britain up for a prosperous future after Brexit.
And as we begin to negotiate trade deals around the world – with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the US - we want to make one thing absolutely clear: the NHS will never, under any circumstances, be on the table in any future trade talks. The price the NHS pays for drugs won’t be on the table. And the services the NHS delivers won’t be on the table.
The Government will never agree to a trade deal with the US or any other country that risks the future of our world-leading health service.
Labour’s attempt to spread lies about the NHS to distract from their confused message on Brexit is shameful. Their tactic of scaring some of the most vulnerable people in the UK in order to score political points is more proof that Jeremy Corbyn is not fit to govern this country.
As the recent Orkambi negotiations have shown, we will never be held to ransom by pharmaceutical companies. Patients will always be put first, and the NHS will continue to have the freedom to negotiate discounted deals for new treatments that are affordable and fair to all parties.
Of course it is also absolutely crucial we have a strong economy to support the NHS. The UK stands on the brink of taking back control of its independent trade policy for the first time in 46 years.
Trade is the foundation of a strong economy and it is this Government’s ambition to negotiate agreements that will allow us to sell more of our great British products across the world – from Welsh lamb, to Scotch Whisky, to English cars.
We will back British business, champion British innovation and promote everything this great county has to offer to make sure we always have the money to help people live longer, healthier and happier lives. It is our priority to strike ambitious free trade agreements that maximise opportunity for British businesses and crucially maintain our high standards for businesses, workers and consumers.
But let us be explicit once more – the NHS will not be up for discussion in these trade negotiations – under any circumstances. We have made this absolutely clear to our potential trading partners, and we will continue to do so.
This means that we will never accept changes to the NHS being free at the point of need. We will never accept any trade deal that changes our ability to regulate the NHS or any public services – to do so would be undemocratic.
We will never accept any trade deal that decreased control of procurement and competition rules by forcing the NHS to provide preferential access to foreign companies. And will never accept changes to the UK’s medicines pricing and reimbursement system which negatively impact the NHS. The sustainability of the NHS is an absolute priority for this Government.
That is why we are clear that in any negotiations on future trade agreements we will never include any proposals that include medicines pricing, or access that would put NHS finances at risk, or reduce clinician and patient choice.
It was the Conservative health minister Henry Willink who declared the NHS should be “free at the point of delivery, according to need not ability to pay.” 75 years on, the Conservative Party are as committed to that principle as ever.
A free trade agreement with the US provides so much opportunity for both countries and will strengthen a special trading relationship between two of world’s most advanced democracies. We are already the largest investors in each other’s economies, and every day a million Brits and a million Americans work for companies from the other nation. Despite this success there are still barriers holding British businesses back.
These include high tariffs in some sectors – up to 28% for fashion, 15% for machinery and 35% for food and drink. And barriers around regulation, recognition of qualifications and foreign entry restrictions all constrain our world-class professional services and creative industries.
A new US free trade agreement could break down these barriers, create more opportunity and prompt growth and prosperity across the country, helping to continue to fund our NHS for our children and their children. But under no circumstances will a US trade deal involve the health service. The Conservative party are committed to protect our beloved NHS for generations to come.