“The NHS is not for sale,” declared Matt Hancock, the health secretary, in response to US ambassador Woody Johnson saying it should be part of any future US-UK trade deal.
“Yes we’d love to make it cheaper to buy your life-saving pharmaceuticals - but the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade talks,” the Tory leadership contender continued. “My American friends know this.”
The harsh reality is that Mr Hancock’s American friends know full well that when he said what he said, he was talking out of what the doctors he’s notionally in charge of like to call the sphincter ani externus, but that the yanks he pals around with would probably refer to more simply as his ass.
Followers of American politics know that truth is a flexible thing when it comes to the Trump administration but with his statement Johnson was giving us the pure and unvarnished version of it because of course the entire UK economy would be up for grabs in talks about a trade deal with Donald Trump’s America. That would have to include the NHS, which is a big part of it, otherwise what would there be to talk about?
Hancock was suggesting that he’d go into those talks saying that yes, we love open economies and free trade. Didn’t you see the banner Liam Fox was showing off to the world’s plutocrats at Davos? But when it comes to our prime asset, one of the very best bits of UK plc, we’re going to come over all protectionist because if we don’t the peasants on these shores would revolt. They quite like what you refer to as “socialised medicine” because it works rather well, and certainly a lot better than your system that forces people into crowd funding to secure life saving treatments.
So we want that bit taken out of any deal.
Tell you what, as long as you stick a label on the product, we’ll let your farmers ship over as much of their chlorinated or acid washed chicken as they want, and maybe some hormone treated beef too.
How’s that sound?
What it sounds like is a recipe for the US trade negotiation team to have a quiet chuckle before coming back with something like: “Call us when you’ve got something sensible to offer. By the way, how are you guys enjoying your post-Brexit recession? Food banks got enough un-chlorinated chicken?”'
Read more: Trump is here to help carve up the NHS in a post-Brexit trade deal – that’s the real story behind his visit
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