Guido thought he’d factcheck Corbyn’s claims on what the unredacted documents say – and it turns out there was quite a lot of contortion on Corbyn’s part to interpret the documents as menacingly as he presented them. There’s already a lot of push back from the Department for Trade pointing out the documents were not from trade discussions where things were agreed, rather they were from the working groups in which both the UK and US set out their starting positions for any future trade talks.
Corbyn: “The US and the UK have already finished the discussion on lengthening patents for medicines, longer patents can mean only one thing: more expensive drugs”
Document references to patent law:
Corbyn also specifically pointed to page 51 of the second document, claiming it says “patent issues… [around] NHS access to generic drugs will be a key consideration. Deliberately missing key words and changing the meaning of what was discussed. The paragraph says the UK is in difficult territory here because of disagreements over this area.
“Labour has been warning that NHS services will also be on the table in trade talks for a sellout deal with Trump… the documents show Trump was right.” “These documents make clear that for the US – to quote page 41 of the third meeting report – “everything is included unless something is specifically excluded”. They want “total market access as the baseline assumption of a trade negotiation”
“But surely you can’t believe that British officials would demand the NHS be excluded. Apparently not. In fact, on behalf of the Conservative Government officials reassured their counterparts that the US should expect the UK to be a liberalising influence, and that together they could fly the green flag for service liberalisation.”
Page 41 of the third meeting report – a 77 page report that mentions the NHS once – does include the phrase “everything is included unless something is specifically excluded”, in the context of the US explaining their approach to free trade
It certainly wasn’t a concession from the UK negotiating team. As the Department for Trade makes clear, no agreements could have been made as these meetings were working groups to set out each others’ stalls – not negotiations.
For working groups discussing trade, the NHS is barely mentioned in these documents. Including all 451 pages, the NHS is mentioned 4 times, once regarding defending the NHS’s access to cheaper drugs for patients (to spell it out – that’s a good thing). One sentence even spells out the US were “Sensitive to the particular sensitivities with the health sector in the UK”:
Within an hour, the key facets of Corbyn’s big announcement have fallen flat…
UPDATE: The Conservatives have come out with a response that doesn’t mince its words:
“Jeremy Corbyn is getting desperate and is out-and-out lying to the public about what these documents contain. He has always believed in conspiracy theories – which is why he has failed to crack down on the scourge of antisemitism in his party. This is the man that has caused huge offence by blaming an imaginary ‘Zionist lobby’ for society’s ills and now he has decided to smear UK officials too.
“People should not believe a word that he says – this stunt is simply a smokescreen for the fact that he has no plan for Brexit and that he has been forced to admit that he wants to increase taxes for millions of families.
“As we have consistently made clear: the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade deal and the price that the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table. This sort of conspiracy theory fuelled nonsense is not befitting of the leader of a major political party