Petition Don't put our NHS up for negotiation
Please introduce concrete safeguards that will make sure our NHS is kept out of any future trade deals after Brexit.
Words aren't enough - we want watertight protections that will keep our NHS off the negotiating table.
Why is this important?
When done well, trade deals can be good for the UK. They can help create jobs and build opportunities for all of us. But this plan would put our health service at risk.
Parliament debated this topic
This topic was debated on 22 July 2019
This response was given on 17 June 2019
The Government has been clear: the NHS is not, and never will be, for sale to the private sector. The Government will ensure no trade agreements will ever be able to alter this fundamental fact.
Read the response in full
The Government has been consistently clear about its commitment to the guiding principles of the NHS – that it is universal and free at the point of need. Our position is definitive: the NHS is not, and never will be, for sale to the private sector, whether overseas or domestic. The Government will ensure no trade agreements will ever be able to alter these fundamental facts.
As the Prime Minister noted in January, our health service “is there for all of us when we need it most”. The NHS “is one of this country’s greatest institutions. An institution that is consistently what makes the people of this country most proud to be British”.
That is why protecting the UK’s right to regulate in the public interest and protect public services, including the NHS, is of the utmost importance. As set out in the October 2017 White Paper ‘Preparing for our future trade policy’, the Government will continue to ensure that decisions on how to run public services are made by UK Governments, including the Devolved Administrations, and not our trade partners.
The UK’s public services are protected by specific exceptions and reservations in EU Free Trade Agreements. As we leave the EU, the UK will continue to ensure that rigorous protections are included in all trade agreements it is party to, whether transitioned from an EU context or as a result of new negotiations.
These protections are an integral part of the UK’s future independent trade policy, rather than being at odds with it. We want to maximise our trade opportunities globally and across all countries – both by boosting our trading relationships with old friends and new allies, and by seeking a deep and special partnership with the EU. The UK aims to pursue an ambitious bilateral trade agenda. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) can enable increased trade and investment, secure access for UK exporters to the key markets of today and the future, give consumers access to a greater range of products at lower prices, and make the UK more innovative, competitive and prosperous.
These benefits also matter for the public services which we want to protect. Trade is vital for the NHS, which relies heavily on vital goods and services that come wholly, or in part, from suppliers based overseas. Trade enables the NHS to buy the best possible medicines and medical devices that industry – here and overseas – has to offer. That is in the best interests of NHS patients.
Trade agreements do not prevent governments from regulating as they see fit, and they also do not require governments to privatise any services. The UK Government is committed to maintaining our high standards for consumers, workers and the environment, and to protecting our public services, in any future trade agreements that we conclude.
The Government will ensure that nothing in our future trade agreements dilutes the powers of UK regulators to maintain the NHS’s position as the best health service in the world.
Department for International Trade.