Johnson must tell Trump to take NHS off the table, Corbyn urges ahead of visit

By Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent

Jeremy Corbyn has called on Boris Johnson to demand that Donald Trump takes the NHS “off the table” in trade talks ahead of the US president’s UK visit.

The Labour Party leader wrote to the Prime Minister on Monday calling for him discontinue discussions until Mr Trump rules out US companies gaining any access to public services in a post-Brexit deal.

Mr Trump will touch down in the UK on Monday ahead of a two-day summit of Nato leaders.

His presence has the potential to throw a political hand grenade into the campaign for the December 12 election, particularly if he gives any further backing to the PM, or speaks about Brexit.

Mr Corbyn wrote to the PM accusing him of having “misled the public” by claiming the NHS is not part of trade discussions.

Mr Johnson has dismissed Labour’s claims as “nonsense”.

The Labour leader demanded that the UK-US talks must cease until Mr Trump amends negotiating objectives to exclude pharmaceuticals, and accepts the role of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in setting cost-effectiveness of NHS drugs.

And he demands the president must “explicitly rule out” US companies winning access to UK public services through investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms, beyond the reach of British courts.

Labour believes a trade deal under Mr Johnson threatens to drive up the cost at which the NHS buys drugs, potentially draining £500 million a week from the health service.

Mr Corbyn concluded: “The public need to know that all aspects of our health service are genuinely off the table in any UK-US trade talks, and that no part of the NHS or our health system will be up for sale.”

Tory officials are wary that the president, who previously backed Mr Johnson as “the exact right guy for the times”, could dent the lead that the polls suggest the Conservatives have.

But a senior official in the Trump administration told reporters on Friday that the president “is absolutely cognisant of not, again, wading into other country’s elections”.

Mr Trump first sparked fears over his nation’s interest in the health service when he said “everything will be on the table” – including the NHS.

But he later performed a u-turn amid a public outcry, to say that he does not see it as being “part of trade”.