Labour says it has evidence that the NHS would be “up for sale” if Boris Johnson wins the December general election.
Jeremy Corbyn has produced a 451-page dossier at a press conference in London showing, he says, that initial talks with the US have already taken place on drug prices and the NHS.
The Labour leader claims the unredacted papers reveal that the US wants “total market access” to the NHS after the UK leaves the EU.
What do the documents show?
They detail six rounds of talks between US and UK officials in Washington and London between July 2017 and July 2019. They show that the US is interested in discussing NHS drug pricing, in particular, extending patents to stop cheaper generic medicines being used.
The US currently pays around two-and-a-half times more for drugs than the UK, says the BBC.
One of the documents quotes a UK official saying the talks are useful for determining the areas the US would want to discuss in trade talks between the countries.
The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg says: “It’s clear US drug companies want access to UK markets – Labour suggests the UK has agreed they could extend the patents on some medicines, which could cost the NHS more.”
Corbyn highlighted a passage in the documents that indicated the US would prefer a no-deal Brexit. “There would be all to play for in a no-deal situation but UK commitment to the customs union and single market would make a US-UK [free trade agreement] a non-starter,” the document says.
What has Labour said?
Corbyn claims that the uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson’s denials in “absolute tatters”.
“We have 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 and today it has been exposed,” he said.
The Labour leader called it “a plot against our country”, but Jim Pickard at the Financial Times says it is “quite thin material when you boil it down to the essentials”.
How have the Conservatives reacted?
Johnson said claims the NHS was for sale were “total nonsense” and he could give a “cast-iron guarantee” that the NHS would not be part of formal talks.
International Development Secretary Liz Truss said Labour’s revelations were simply a stunt. “Jeremy Corbyn is getting desperate and is out and out lying about what the documents contain,” she said. “People should not believe what he says.
“As we have consistently made clear, the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade deal and the price that the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table. This sort of conspiracy theory fuelled nonsense is not befitting of the leader of a major political party,” The Guardian adds.