Donald Trump warned NHS 'not for sale' in Brexit trade deal as he jets in to UK for state visit
Donald Trump will arrive in the UK on Monday for a three-day visit amid a major political row over the inclusion of the NHS in a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States.
The US President will be treated to a state banquet at Buckingham Palace on Monday evening, before holding talks with Theresa May on Tuesday.
But President Trump flies into the country amid mounting controversy after his UK ambassador suggested that the US would demand the NHS be included in any trade deal signed with Britain after it leaves the European Union.
Asked whether American firms would be getting a "slice" of the NHS post-Brexit, Woody Johnson told the BBC: "I think probably the entire economy would in a trade deal all things that are traded would be on the table."
The comments triggered an immediate cross-party backlash, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who is vying to be the next leader of the Conservative party, insisting the NHS was "not for sale".
He said: "My American friends, know this. The NHS is not for sale. Yes we'd love to make it cheaper to buy your life-saving pharmaceuticals – but the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade talks."
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth also pounced on the "terrifying" comments, warning: "This absolutely should not be on the table. Nigel Farage and the Tories want to rip apart our publicly funded NHS. Labour will always defend it."
And Liberal Democrat leadership contender Sir Ed Davey warned: "We must ensure that access to the NHS is not up for grabs in return for a trade deal."
MAY HAILS 'SIGNIFICANT WEEK'
Speaking ahead of the US President's visit - which is expected to be met with protests in cities across the UK - Theresa May talked up a "significant week for the special relationship" between the two countries.
"Our relationship has underpinned our countries’ security and prosperity for many years – and will continue to do so for generations to come," she said.
"We do more together than any other nations in the world. We are the largest investors in each other’s economies and our strong trading relationship and close business links create jobs, opportunities and wealth for our citizens.
The Prime Minister added: "Our security relationship too is deeper, broader and more advanced than with anyone else.
"Through joint military operations, unrivalled intelligence-sharing and our commitment to NATO, our global leadership remains at the heart of international peace and stability.
"So I look forward to welcoming President Trump to the UK and to building on the strong and enduring ties between our countries."
President Trump meanwhile told reporters the trip would be "very important".
"There’s a lot going on in the UK. And I’m sure it’s going to work out very well for them.
"As you know, they want to do trade with the United States, and I think there’s an opportunity for a very big trade deal at some point in the near future. And we’ll see how that works out."
President Trump has already raised eyebrows ahead of the visit by heaping praise on contender Boris Johnson as the battle to succeed Mrs May as Conservative leader rages.
He has also demanded that Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage be given a seat at the Brexit negotiating table, and warned the UK not to push ahead with plans to let Chinese firm Huawei be involved in the 5G telecoms network.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Trump urged Britain to pursue "alternatives" to letting the company - which the US fears will allow the Chinese state to access vital infratructure - run 'non-core' parts of the network.
"You know what has happened with Huawei, you know we have a very important intelligence gathering group, that we work very closely with your country and so you have to be very careful," the US leader warned.
As President Trump prepared to arrive in the UK, Jeremy Hunt - also in the running to succeed Mrs May as Tory leader and Prime Minister - hinted that he could rethink the decision to grant access to the Chinese company if he took on the top job.
He told US TV station CBS: "We have to ask as western countries whether it is wise to allow one country to have such a commanding monopoly in the technologies that we’re all of us going to be depending on."
And the Foreign Secretary added: "We would never take a decision that would affect our intelligence-sharing capabilities with the US.
"We have to look at at the technical issues that are around whether buying products from a specific country could be a back door to espionage, and we are looking at those very carefully."