Thank you for contacting me about the NHS and international trade.
Like you, I cherish our National Health Service and its guiding principles, namely, that it is universal and free at the point of need. The Government has been repeatedly clear that our NHS will never be on the table in any trade agreements, a position I fully support.
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.
The UK will continue to ensure that the NHS is protected in all trade agreements it is party to, whether transitioned from an EU context or as a result of new negotiations. Indeed, outside the EU, rigorous protections for our NHS will be maintained and included in any future trade agreement to which our country is party.
I want to be clear that the NHS will be protected in any future trade agreement with the US. The price the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table, and nor will the services the NHS provides.
Investor-state Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and the NHS
With specific regard to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms in trade agreements, I understand the Government has been thinking carefully about its future approach. However, it is important to note that ISDS does not, and cannot, force the privatisation of public services or oblige the Government to open the NHS to further competition. There is also yet to be a successful ISDS claim against the UK and nor has the threat of potential disputes affected the Government’s legislative programme.
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