Jeremy Corbyn has again sought to pile pressure on the Conservative party over the status of the NHS in any future trade deal with the US, asDonald Trumparrived in London just over a week from polling day. *****
Despite the US president insisting that hewould not be interested in access to the NHSif it was presented “on a silver platter”, the Labor leader said he remained deeply sceptical of Trump’s claims and vowed to tackle him personally over the issue.
“If that’s the case, why have these talks gone on for two years?” Corbyn said to the BBC. “Why have they been kept secret? Why was, on a freedom of information request, the document only produced in redacted form? And eventually the full text has been released. ”
After Trump touched down for this week’sNatosummit late on Monday night, Johnson spent much of Tuesday trying to avoid the US president – conscious that he could derail his carefully controlled election campaign – instead traveling to Salisbury in the Tory election battle bus.
Trump, who last time he was in London started a wave of rumors about NHS privatisation post-Brexit, appeared to have been carefully briefed to not upset Johnson’s election campaign. He insisted he had “no thoughts” about the 12 December election, while still noting that he supportedBrexitand believed Johnson would “do a good job”. *****
Asked about discussions about access to theNHS, he said: “I don’t even know where that rumor 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. ”
Corbyn was attending a reception with Trump at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday evening outside whichnoisy protests took place against potential risks to the NHSfrom a future US-UK trade deal.
Asked what he would tell the US president if they chatted, Corbyn said: “I will say,‘ Welcome to this country. I hope you’ll understand how precious our NationalHealthService is, and in any future trade relationship with the USA, none of our public services are on the table, none of our public services are for sale. ”
For his part, when asked whether he could work with Corbyn if the Labor leader won the election, Trump said: “I can work with him. I’m a very easy man to work with. ”
Conservative hopes that the US president would support their narrative on the NHS were buoyed when Trump rejected the idea that US healthcare firms could seek access. But any nerves about potential electoral damage from unscripted Trump interventions were stoked by the fact a planned brief exchange with the media at the US ambassadors’s residence in London spiralled into a freewheeling, 50 – minute question-and-answer session.
Labor have sought to maintain pressure on the status of the NHS in future US trade talks, dismissing Trump’s insistence that he would not seek access to health markets ahead of a crucial crucial day in the election campaign.
Both Trump and Boris Johnson were scheduled to hold press conferences at the Nato summit, taking place in Watford, on Wednesday afternoon.
Johnson returned to London from Salisbury for talks at Downing Street with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, with No 10 saying they discussed Syria, Libya and Terrorism.
Labor have repeatedly argued that post-Brexit talks with the US on a new trade deal could see the UK forced to accept American corporations gaining access to elements of the NHS, or pushing up drug prices. Last week Corbynproduced official documentsciting US demands that the NHS would be “on the table” in such talks.
Johnson faces a potentially tricky day on Wednesday, not least stewarding an important Nato summit amid serious tensions among members about its future. Speaking to reporters,Trump condemned Macron for the French president’s depiction of Nato as “brain-dead”, calling this a “very, very nasty statement”.
At the same time, the prime minister will be aware of the volatility of a US president who routinely sabotages the news narratives of even hosts and allies, and is visibly unsettled by theongoing impeachment proceedings against him, the subject of a series of late-night Trump tweets after his arrival.
In a speech to the summit, extracts of which were released in advance, Johnson will urge unity, saying that while Nato had endured 70 years, “peace cannot be taken for granted and even as we celebrate this anniversary we must ensure that our deeds match our words ”.
He said: “Seventy years on, we are rock solid in our commitment to Nato and to the giant shield of solidarity that now protects 29 Countries and nearly a billion people. ”
In Salisbury, Johnson visited military veterans before touring a Christmas market in the city, facing both cheers and abuse from watching crowds. Speaking to reporters on the visit, the prime minister called Labour’s claims on the NHS “pure Loch Ness monster, Bermuda triangle stuff”.
Asked if Trump had assisted him with his comments, Johnson said: “I want to stress that under no circumstances whatever will any part of the NHS be for sale and this is periodically, metronomically produced in a completely fraudulent way by the Labor party in order to distract from the vacuity of their position on Brexit and their unwillingness to get Brexit done. From our point of view, it was never remotely credible and it was never on the table. ”
As Trump faced protests over his visit on Tuesday night, Johnson said the need for good relations between the UK prime minister and US president was “just a geopolitical, geo-strategic fact”.
He added: “The UK’s role in Nato is to be the glue. We’re the second biggest player. We’re the country that historically has helped to bridge the Atlantic together and to bring Europe and America together, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do. ”