Jeremy Corbyn defends use of NHS trade documents amid Russian influence claims

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn holds redacted copies of the Department for International Trade's UK-US Trade and Investment Working Group report following a speech about the NHS, in Westminster, London.
Jeremy Corbyn holds redacted copies of the UK-US trade documents following a speech about the NHS last week (PA Images)

Jeremy Corbyn has defended Labour’s use of UK-US trade documents after a report revealed they could have been disseminated by a Russian information operation.

The Labour leader has used the documents to suggest the NHS is “on the table” as part of a post-Brexit deal with the US but this has been denied by the Tories.

After Mr Corbyn presented full documents, which had previously been heavily redacted, at a Labour event last week it emerged they had been on social media site Reddit since October.

Leaked trade documents ‘on Reddit since October’

On Monday a report from a social media research firm said the way the documents were disseminated online was similar to a Russian information operation but could not conclusively prove that.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, when asked about the suggestion the documents could have got to Reddit via a Russian influence operation, Mr Corbyn said: “This is such nonsense, such utter nonsense. This is desperation by the Conservative Party.

“These documents represent secret talks between the Tory government and the American administration to sell off our public services to American corporations.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking outside Birkbeck/SOAS University of London, at the announcement of his parties of the plan for the extension of workers� rights, whilst on the General Election campaign trail.
The Labour leader branded claims about a Russian information operation as 'nonsense' (PA)

“Not even the Government has claimed they are false documents, they have challenged our analysis of them, they’ve challenged what we think they are trying to do on them but they haven’t challenged the honesty of them.

“So I think this is just such nonsense.”

On Monday, a report by Graphika, which researches social media, found that the way the leaked documents were amplified online has similarities to a Russian information operation called “Secondary Infektion”.

Documents leak ‘similar to Russian information operation’

The report’s executive summary states: “The similarities to Secondary Infektion are not enough to provide conclusive attribution but are too close to be simply a coincidence.

“They could indicate a return of the actors behind Secondary Infektion or a sophisticated attempt by unknown actors to mimic it.”

It adds: “The most urgent question is how the leaked documents – apparently genuine – came to be disseminated online in what appears to be an information operation, six weeks before the UK’s general election.”

When pushed on Labour’s source of the documents, he said: “Those documents represent meetings that took place between a British minister and officials in the USA and a lot more meetings that took place between British officials and US officials to discuss how they would open up our public services to American corporations.

“I think it is time they give us an assurance that they will not sell off our NHS, that they will not sell off our public services as part of a trade deal with the USA.”

US wants nothing to do with NHS, says Trump

President Donald Trump, speaking ahead of a NATO summit in London, said of the idea the NHS is on the table in a trade agreement: “I don’t even know where that rumour started.

“We have absolutely nothing to do with it and we wouldn’t want to if you handed it to us on a silver platter, we want nothing to do with it.”

US President Donald Trump at a breakfast meeting with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at Winfield House, the residence of the Ambassador of the United States of America to the UK, in Regent's Park, London, as Nato leaders gather to mark 70 years of the alliance.
US President Donald Trump said the US wanted 'nothing to do with the NHS' (PA)

The Conservative manifesto states the NHS “will not be on the table” during future trade negotiations.

Mr Corbyn also defended himself from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claims ahead of the NATO summit that he sides with “our enemies”.

“Every time he has the chance, he sides with our enemies,” Mr Johnson told The Sun.

“A lot of our allies, particularly the Five Eyes, are very anxious about any future collaboration.

Corbyn sides with our enemies, says Johnson

“It is absolutely not a Tory scare story. They have said precisely this.”

Mr Corbyn said: “Not for the first time Boris Johnson is talking complete nonsense.”

“I want all of our people to be safe and secure, that means we have to ensure there is no danger of terrorists threat, that means we will properly fund and have a police force that’s effective across the whole country.”

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