We have no interest in the NHS, says Trump
US president insists health service would not be on the table in trade talks as he meets Boris Johnson
DONALD TRUMP said he wanted “nothing to do” with the NHS as he dismissed claims by Labour that the health service could be for sale in a post-brexit trade deal.
The US president said the NHS would not be on the table during USUK trade talks even if “you handed it to us on a silver platter”.
It came as the Kremlin fuelled the growing row around leaked government minutes of trade talks published by Labour as it failed to deny the involvement of Russian hackers.
As Mr Trump held meetings ahead of today’s 70th anniversary Nato summit, he also insisted he would “stay out” of the general election campaign, only to add that Boris Johnson was “very capable” and would do “a good job”.
Mr Johnson spent most of the day steering clear of Mr Trump in order to avoid giving Labour the chance to criticise him over his relationship with the president. But the two met at Buckingham Palace last night before Mr Trump and other Nato leaders attended a Downing Street reception.
Mr Johnson was so keen to minimise the number of photographs of himself with Mr Trump that he left the president and his wife Melania in the cold outside No10 when they arrived.
Mr Johnson insisted he would press ahead with a digital services tax if the Tories were re-elected, despite the threat of Mr Trump imposing tariffs on British goods, as he did with the French. Mr Johnson said he “deplores” trade wars in a statement interpreted as a defiant message to Mr Trump.
Mr Trump, meanwhile, gave Mr Johnson an unexpected boost by denying Labour claims that the NHS would be on the table in post-brexit trade talks. Asked if the NHS should be included in the talks, Mr Trump replied: “No, not at all, I have nothing to do with it. Never even thought about it, honestly. I don’t even know where that rumour started. We wouldn’t want to if you handed it to us on a silver platter.”
Quoting Mr Trump’s comments, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: “That’s settled then.”
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson, campaigning in Salisbury, said he could “categorically rule out” that “any part of the NHS will be on the table in any trade negotiations”, adding that this included pharmaceuticals.
Jeremy Corbyn wrote to Mr Trump demanding “urgent clarity” over whether the NHS was “genuinely off the table” and reassurances that a trade deal would not open up the health service to “irreversible privatisation”. Mr Corbyn said he would confront the president over the issue if he got the chance at the Palace, but did not do so.
Mr Johnson said yesterday that Mr Trump’s increasing use of tariffs against foreign countries would not prevent him introducing a digital services tax of 2 per cent on companies that trade in the UK. Mr Trump threatened tariffs of up to 100 per cent on French goods after it imposed a digital tax of 3 per cent on US internet giants.
Asked if he was worried about retaliation, Mr Johnson said: “Obviously I deplore, I don’t think trade wars are a good thing. I do think we need to look at the operation of the big digital companies and the huge revenues they have in this country and the amount of tax that they pay. They need to make a fairer contribution.”
Senior MPS called for an urgent Cabinet Office investigation into how Labour obtained classified minutes of US-UK trade talks amid growing evidence linking the leak to Moscow.
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, said: “We must get to the bottom of this. If there is any possibility of
Russian interference in this process that needs to come out, and there is no question in my mind that the Cabinet Office needs to look at this very quickly.”
Mr Corbyn hinted that he had downloaded the minutes from a website on which investigators increasingly believe it had been placed by Russia.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said it was “not possible to comment seriously” on allegations that Russian hackers obtained the documents and put them online, but he stopped short of issuing a denial. He said: “It’s very convenient to cover up one’s own headache, and to use this fetish to frighten people with Russian hackers.”
The Cabinet Office refused to disclose whether an investigation was under way. A spokesman said: “We do not comment on leaks.”
Donald Trump and his wife Melania had to make their own way in to No 10 for a Nato reception as Boris Johnson avoided being photographed with the president