I've received a lot of e-mails from people worried about the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); a trade deal currently being negotiated between the European Union and the USA.
The 38 Degrees campaign group is pushing a message that TTIP will mean American health companies will be able to take over and perhaps charge people for services that are currently run by the NHS. Is this true?
Short answer - No.
The “initial offer” document drawn up by the EU states that “The EU reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all health services which receive public funding or State support in any form.” This would clearly include any NHS service whether delivered directly by the public sector or by private operators. Of course it is always possible (but unlikely) that this section might be removed in the final treaty, but as things stand, the NHS is specifically excluded from having to "open up."
It is also the exact same language which was included without concern in the CETA trade agreement between the EU and Canada which is already due to come into effect in 2016 pending final signing in Brussels.
Nevertheless, I agree with Nick Clegg when he says “I would never endorse TTIP… unless it was absolutely crystal clear that we are allowed to do exactly what we want with our public services, with our cherished NHS, without being undermined by TTIP.”
Free trade is great for our economy and Britain has benefited enormously from being able to trade freely with the other 27 countries in the EU. The people who benefit most are usually small businesses and individuals, the people who can't afford to hire lawyers and teams of office staff to deal with tariffs and import/export charges. With TTIP, we can make it almost as easy to do business with America as it is to do it with Europe.
As your MP, I would work to ensure we get a trade deal that benefits people in the UK – helping us build our economy and create jobs, but only if the protections in the document remain and there is explicit protection for the NHS.