US will want business access to NHS in post-Brexit trade deal, ambassador says
The US would want its healthcare firms to be able to bid for NHS contracts as part of a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK, ambassador Woody Johnson has said.
Mr Johnson, a close friend and ally of President Donald Trump, said “probably the entire economy” of Britain will be “on the table” if the two nations ever begin talks on a pact.
He made the comments the day before Mr Trump lands in the UK for a state visit which will be seen by many as a precursor to strengthening post-Brexit relations between the two nations.
Labour and others have voiced concerns that any such deal could open up the NHS to private bidding from US health and pharmaceutical giants.
Asked on the BBC Andrew Marr show today about the US getting a “slice” of the NHS in a post-Brexit deal, Mr Johnson said: “I think probably the entire economy would in a trade deal, all things that are traded would be on the table.”
Last month Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth warned against US firms under the Trump administration “getting their hands on NHS contracts”.
He said: “I’m not prepared to countenance that – it’s why we need instead a permanent and comprehensive customs union arrangement.” And he added: “Our NHS mustn’t be for sale.”
On agriculture standards Mr Johnson was less clear over whether accepting US goods would be a condition of any trade deal, amid fears over imports of chlorine-washed chicken and beef containing artificial growth hormones.
He said Brits would not be forced to accept the US standards, but said they should have “a choice” over whether they wish to buy such imported products.
He added: “The American food supply is as safe as any in Europe.”
Elsewhere, Mr Johnson issued a warning to Theresa May ahead of the state visit that she should rule out the involvement of Chinese firm Huawei in the building of the British 5G network.
Ms May is said to be resisting pressure from the president as she is willing to allow Huawei non-core involvement in the system - despite fears the Chinese government could force it to hand over information.
But Mr Johnson said: "There is no such thing as the core or the outlying areas - it's all one big thing. You can't have the antennas all over and think that they're not part of it."
And he echoed Mr Trump when he said allowing Huawei to be involved with the British 5G network could put a block on the security relationship between the two countries.
Elsewhere, Tory leadership contender and Home Secretary Sajid Javid all but ruled out allowing Huawei to take part in the build if he becomes Prime Minister.
He told the same show: "I would not want any company, whichever country its from that has a high degree of control by a foreign government, to have access to our very sensitive telecommunications network."