Almost half of British voters do not believe Boris Johnson’s claim that the NHS is “off the table” in trade deals, a new poll has found.
And the survey by pollsters Survation found that three-quarters (75 per cent) want specific protections for the NHS to be written into law in the Trade Bill, which has its second reading in the House of Lords today
Tuesday sees the opening of the fourth round of trade talks between the UK and US, which has made no secret of its hopes of securing access for American companies to NHS markets, as well as tougher rules on patents to improve pharmaceutical companies’ profits from new drugs.
Leaked documents last year revealed that US negotiators had made clear their desire for “total market access” in any deal with the UK.
But the prime minister has repeatedly insisted that the NHS is “off the table” in talks, with aides insisting that the documents unveiled by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reflected Washington setting out its stall at the outset of negotiations.
However, today’s polling for the pro-public ownership campaign group We Own It suggests that Mr Johnson has failed to convince many voters that he will protect the health service.
Some 47 per cent of those questioned said they did not believe the PM’s assurance that the NHS was “off the table”, up nine percentage points since a similar poll in July. By contrast, just 30 per cent who were polled did believe him.
And 75 per cent said there should be specific protections for the NHS in the Trade Bill, against just 12 per cent who said there should not.
The We Own It campaign argues that the Bill needs specific protections to avoid opening up the health service to being charged more for drugs, enshrining access rights for American healthcare companies in an international treaty and “locking in” privatisation that would be difficult for a future government to reverse.
The group’s director Cat Hobbs said: “At a time when we’re relying on our health service more than ever before, it’s beyond shocking that the government would seek to pass legislation that could see our NHS be carved up and sold off.
“As this poll shows, the public don’t buy Boris Johnson’s reassurances, and three in four of us want to see concrete protections for our NHS.