Brexit, Trade Deals, Food Standards and the NHS: Update August 2019

Thank you for contacting me about the NHS, food standards and international trade following Brexit.

Free trade is a driver of economic growth which can raise incomes, create jobs, and lift people out of poverty, which is why I am glad that outside the EU the UK will be able to strike new trade agreements with countries across the globe. But more trade should not come at the expense of the high levels of quality and protection enjoyed in our country.

Like you, I cherish our National Health Service and the role it plays in ensuring that no-one is denied medical treatment because they cannot afford it. The Government has been repeatedly clear that our NHS will never be on the table in any trade negotiations, a position I fully support.

In the EU trade agreements to which our country is currently party, our NHS is protected by specific exceptions and reservations. Outside the EU, rigorous protections for our NHS will be maintained and included in any future trade agreement to which our country is party.

Following the US state visit, I welcomed President Trump’s clarification of his remarks about a potential US-UK trade agreement, in which he stated: “I don't see it [the NHS] being on the table” in negotiations.

Our food standards will not be reduced in the pursuit of trade deals. Any future trade deal must work for British farmers and consumers. For instance, EU standards on food such as chlorinated chicken will come into UK law through the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. EU regulations on hormone treated beef are already part of UK law. These prevent the use of growth hormones in imports and domestic production. These will continue after the UK leaves the EU. I can also assure you that farmers will continue to receive the same cash total in funds for the duration of this Parliament whether or not a deal is reached.

With specific regard to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms in trade agreements, the Government is considering the future approach. However, it is important to note ISDS does not, and cannot, force the privatisation of public services or oblige the Government to open the NHS to further competition.

I hope this reassures you that all future trade agreements will continue to protect our vital NHS.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Craig Whittaker MP

August 2019