Trump to UK: NHS has to be on the table in a trade deal


Does Donald Trump want Jeremy Corbyn as his next partner in the US-UK relationship? Because this is precisely how you get more Jeremy Corbyn. In touting the potential for a post-Brexit trade agreement with the Brits, Trump told reporters that their National Health Service would have to be “on the table,” comments immediately seized upon by Labour:

U.S. President Donald Trump said Britain’s public health service should be on the table in talks about a trade deal between the two countries after Brexit, prompting Prime Minister Theresa May to say some areas of the economy might be off limits.

“I think everything with a trade deal is on the table,” Trump said when asked if U.S. companies should be able to access Britain’s National Health Service after a deal.

“So NHS or anything else, or a lot more than that. But everything will be on the table, absolutely.”

Labour has already claimed that the Tories want to privatize some or all of the popular NHS, a claim that Tories have denied. Those claims have focused on the pending US-UK trade talks, with rumors that American companies might end up running parts of what is now a single-payer system in the UK. Theresa May, understanding the danger Trump’s remarks created, tried to quickly shut down the NHS talk:

Mrs May was forced to interject, telling reporters: “But the point in making trade deals is of course that both sides negotiate and come to an agreement about what should or should not be in that trade deal for the future.”

Even before Trump’s remarks, Corbyn had fired up a protest rally by promising to protect the NHS from Americans and privatization:

U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Tuesday he would not stand for a post-Brexit trade deal that “offered up” the nation’s “precious” National Health Service to American companies.

In an impassioned speech to crowds gathered in Whitehall to protest against the state visit of U.S. President Donald Trump, the opposition leader delivered a series of broadsides against what he referred to as “visitors from the U.S.,” adding “it’s about the kind of world we want to live in.”

On Brexit, Corbyn said the basis for debate should not be “how we go forward with no deal at the same time as offering up, offering up our precious, wonderful National Health Service to private American companies to come in and take it over.”

“We will not stand for that,” he said to cheers from the protesters. “We will fight with every last breath of our body to defend the principle, for the principle of a health service free at the point of need to everybody as a human right.”

Now that Trump’s flat-out put NHS on the table, don’t expect Corbyn to let the issue go. He’s been caught up in an anti-Semitism scandal of his own making, and he’s bungled the Brexit question so far badly enough that voters bypassed Labour to embrace the Liberal Democrats and Greens in the EU elections. Corbyn desperately needs to distract from his failures and his character flaws, and Trump handed him a huge gift to accomplish just that. The Tories will not be thanking Trump in their next national election.

Trump might have complicated the end game for Brexit as well, but in that case the potential for damage is limited anyway. The UK is heading for a crash-out, with the EU demanding that the UK accept May’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill and refusing further negotiations. The race for new Tory leadership has hinged so far on just how forcefully each candidate has rejected the WAB, so don’t expect a negotiated exit by the Halloween deadline.

Here’s Trump adding his two cents on Brexit, declaring that “it would be very good for the country.”

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