Clever question from Vince shows Brexit threat to NHS

Theresa May’s non-answer to Vince Cable’s question at PMQs today about whether a future trade deal with the US will safeguard the NHS could end up as being one of the turning points of the Brexit debate.

One of the huge advantages of the EU is that you have a lot more clout if you approach a protectionist like Trump with 27 of your mates rather than if you show up on your own.

Watch the exchange here:

The text is below:

Sir Vince Cable

The Prime Minister knows that one of the key objectives of American trade negotiators in any future deal after Brexit is to secure access for American companies to do business in the NHS. Will she give an absolute guarantee that the NHS will be excluded from the scope of those negotiations? Will she also confirm that she has made it absolutely clear to President Trump in her conversations with him that the NHS is not for sale?

The Prime Minister

We are starting the discussions with the American Administration, first of all looking at what we can already do to increase trade between the US and the United Kingdom—even before the possibility of any free trade agreement. The right hon. Gentleman does not know what the American Administration are going to say about their requirements for that free trade agreement. We will go into those negotiations to get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom.

The BBC’s Norman Smith felt that this would not be the end of the matter.

Speaking after PMQs, Vince said the PM’s answer was pathetic.

The Prime Minister’s non-answer to my question today can only infer that our NHS is indeed for sale under the Conservatives.

Her pathetic non-committal response, failing to even mention our health service once, stands in stark contrast to guarantees given in 2015 by the EU trade negotiator with the US during the TTIP negotiations that our NHS would be protected.

Unfortunately Brexit Britain, standing on our own, will be in a far weaker negotiating position.

Now, I wonder if there will be a social media campaign to raise awareness of this from our clever digital people.This is an issue that needs to resonate beyond the Remainers’ echo chamber. The NHS, or extra money for it, was a crucial part of Leave’s win. If Leave voters understood the dangers to the NHS, they would care about that a lot more than the odd few hundred million chlorinated chicken that would no doubt be heading our way.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Denis Loretto 7th Feb '18 - 10:46pm

    Another interesting event in today’s PMQs was Labour’s Dennis Skinner putting forward something which sounded exactly like the Lib Dem policy of a hypothecated tax increase to fund the NHS.

  • Denis Loretto 7th Feb '18 - 10:55pm

    I now see from Hansard that Dennis Skinner referred to the better funding of the NHS under the last Labour government and then added – “The then Chancellor of the Exchequer put 1% on national insurance and, in hypothecation terms, that went directly to the health service. It is called long-term stability. Under this Government, people do not know whether they are coming or going. It is high time that this Government did the same as we did between 1997 and 2010—get weaving! “

  • matt severn 8th Feb '18 - 10:50am

    Genuinely great question that has set the news agenda, unsettled the PM and put the Tories on the back foot. Well done Vince!

  • Bernard Fox 8th Feb '18 - 8:09pm

    Vince cable asked the PM a pivotal question about the brokerage of post Brexit deals once we have left Europe. It is extremely alarming that deals such as TTIP are still on the table and mentioned by the PM in the same breath as the fate of out beleaguered NHS. It is well known that the americans talk free trade but do not abide by it’s principles preferring instead to operate either protectionist or skewed clauses that favour their big commercial players. ‘NAFTA’ allows both the US to produce goods in places such as Mexico and Canada and import the goods back to the US without any importation tariffs. TTIP itself utilises a panel of three arbitrators that can evaluate suspected breaches of contract by host governments. These may amount of course to ‘public policy changes’,(quite legitimate) but these arbitrators have the ability to prosecute aggressive legal action against governments for ‘loss of profit’ suits even if action taken by the host is done so in the public interest. ‘Investor- state dispute settlement’ (ISDS) is used by US corporations to protect them against policy changes in TTP member countries. National governments have no redress to question the ISDS panel whose decisions are taken in private and are not subject to appeal.The US is the biggest global offender in pursuance of these claims running into many billions of dollars. If this were the NHS then effectively the autonomy of the service would be subjugated to that of a minority partner without any legal recourse to challenge the multinational company concerned, even if contract changes were in the interest of those served by the NHS-you and I. It’s effectively another form of handing ownership of a public institution over to the objectives of private shareholders. An example of this would be tobacco giant Phillip morris’s investor-state challenge to Australia’s Plain packaging policy, a move also instigated against Uruguay. Check out ‘Guy Standings’ excellent book on the subject: ISBN 978-1-78590217-8

  • John Marriott 8th Feb '18 - 9:40pm

    An interesting tweet from Trump the other day showing a total misinterpretation of the recent NHS demonstrations. Regards of what you may think about the merits, or not, of Brexit, do we really want a large part of our economic future to depend on our sucking up to this particular US administration?

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Feb '18 - 9:51pm

    “do we really want a large part of our economic future to depend on our sucking up to this particular US administration?”

    Do we want a large part of our economic future to depend on our sucking up to any US administration?

  • Surely no one can be in the least surprised that Theresa May won’t rule out allowing US private health companies to run parts (if not the whole) of the NHS.

    This is was always one of the key objectives of the Tory Brexiteers. Daniel Hannah spent much of 2009 touring the US in support of Republican attempts to sabotage Obama Care, appearing on Fox News on several occasions claiming that the NHS was an “historic mistake” that he didn’t his friends in the USA to make = and Farage has been doing a similar job on his recent visit to the USA.

    The simple reality that we still seem unwilling to grasp is that for the extreme Brexiteers leaving the EU was never about creating an independent United Kingdom, it was about changing our status from first class Europeans to second class Americans.

    And the harder the Brexit, the more economically damaged we become, the easier it will be for the US to dictate a trade agreement that includes chlorinated chicken, lower food, drug and environmental standards, political subservience to Washington and the gradual privatisation of the NHS and our Welfare Services.

    We can still draw back from this insanity but the continuing ineptitude, cowardice and personal ambitions of our political masters doesn’t inspire me with optimism

  • Jayne mansfield 9th Feb '18 - 12:12am

    Britain’s biggest enterprise Ideas for radical reform of the NHS.

    Oliver Letwin, John Redwood 1988.

    @ Lee Allane,
    With respect, I would argue that the NHS and Social Care Act 2012, was a step to facilitating and attracting the involvement of US private companies in the running of the NHS.

    Brexiteers can be blamed for many things, but I disagree that this is uniquely one of them.

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