Bruised by a day of intense scrutiny over alleged anti-Semitism within the Labour party yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn tried to reset the agenda today, with the unveiling of 451 pages of unredacted information about UK-USA trade talks from July 2017 until a few months ago.
The documents show that the US demanded talks to proceed with “total market access as the baseline assumption”. As Corbyn put it, “the US is demanding the NHS is on the table in the trade talks.”
The documents show that UK officials said that there were “patent issues” in the discussions, and that “NHS access to generic drugs will be a key consideration” in talks. When pushed for evidence that UK ministers had been involved in, or signed off on the talks, Barry Gardiner, Labour’s shadow international trade secretary, said: “it doesn’t take 6 meetings and 450 pages to say the NHS is not for sale”. He added that George Hollingbery met with US officials while a UK trade minister.
Gardiner and Corbyn both called attention to language in the documents that “explicitly said that preliminary negotiations are over” and are now “at an advanced stage”.
Jeremy Corbyn said: “We’ve 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 but today it’s been exposed.
“Now we know the truth, when Johnson says, ‘get Brexit done’, it’s a fraud on the British people. This is the reality. Years of bogged down negotiations and our NHS is up for sale.
“This election is now a fight for the survival of our National Health Service. As a public service free for all at the point of need.”
As Gardiner said himself, it will be up to journalists now to pore over the document and analyse these dense pages of text for the situation beyond Labour’s spin on it. But at the very least it appears to underline the US’s determination to access UK markets for medicines. Labour will be hoping this is enough to re-set the narrative of the election campaign in their favour.