As US president Donald Trump arrives in London for the annual summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on December 3, Tuesday, the British people are planning to greet him with a massive protest. The protests are being spearheaded by medical professionals and employees of the United Kingdom’s public healthcare sector, the National Health Service (NHS). NHS workers are concerned about the recent revelations from a leaked dossier detailing the secretive trade talks between the US and the UK governments which envision the privatization of the service. The Trump motorcade was greeted with slogans such as “Hands off our NHS”, “Get out, Trump” and “Cuts leave scars”.
The protests follow revelations by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at a press conference based on leaked documents indicating plans for “total market access” for the United States in a post-Brexit UK. The 451-page documents that was shared with the Labour leadership and trade justice group Global Justice Now on November 27 by an unidentified whistleblower had details of the trade talks that were held between the Trump administration and Conservative governments since July 2017.
The talks began during the tenure of former prime minister Theresa May and continued during the term of current prime minister Boris Johnson. At least a dozen sittings have been held. The talks are to negotiate terms of the US-UK relationship in a post-Brexit scenario.
According to both Corbyn and the director of Global Justice Now, Nick Dearden, the talks included negotiations to change the UK’s medical patent laws, regulations on food quality and standards, and the possibility of opening up the National Health Service.
Drug patents have been especially highlighted by the opposition, as US medicines often cost much higher than what they cost in most developed nations, including the UK, because of the long duration of patents. The documents also revealed that the talks are at an advanced stage, indicating that UK government plans to actually implement a sweeping reform of trade and healthcare in a post-Brexit scenario.
The explosive revelations have put the government on a defensive, as documents show the government misled the public on the trade talks. The Johnson government has refused to give public access to details of the talks, and in fact released a document with every single sentence redacted.
As the UK is about to elect a new House of Commons in less than 10 days, the protests over the trade talks and a possible unbundling and reforms of the nation’s healthcare sector has put the Conservative government in a tight spot. The ruling Conservative Party is already distancing itself from Trump, downplaying questions of the trade deal.
Trump, who addressed the media in London, as he prepared for the NATO summit, categorically denied that he or his administration had any interest in the NHS. This goes against a statement he made in one of the previous rounds of trade negotiations in which he said that “everything is on the table”. Trump has also refused to comment or endorse any party in the election, even admitting that “they may not like me”.
NHS doctors and activists, along with Corbyn, Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, musician Brian Eno and activist public intellectual Tariq Ali will congregate at the historic Trafalgar Square, adjacent to Buckingham Palace, where Trump will be staying over the course of his London visit.