Will David Cameron go down in history as the man who gave away this country’s greatest achievement to Wall Street, the man who enabled big American healthcare access to our hospital wards? The answer will be yes – unless the prime minister makes it clear once and for all that he will protect the NHS from the world’s largest bilateral trade negotiations, happening right now in Brussels.
Make no mistake, we are in the fight of our lives to save the NHS from being sold off lock, stock and barrel. But to make matters even worse a trade deal calledTTIP (the transatlantic trade and investment partnership) will mean that reversing the damage done by this government could be impossible unless Cameron acts.
This week faceless bureaucrats from Brussels and Washington are negotiating behind the closed doors of the European commission. You may well ask what trade negotiations in Brussels have got to do with the NHS. But these talks matter to every man, woman and child in the UK. In fact people across the country are campaigning up and down the high streets of our towns to raise awareness of the danger. From Dorset to Dumfriesshire there are growing numbers of people getting angry when they learn about Cameron’s continued refusal to use his veto to protect the NHS from TTIP.
The trade deal would create a single market between the European Union and the United States, and the British government has given the negotiators a free hand to negotiate away our rights to control our health system.
The government’s Health and Social Care Act 2012 opened the floodgates to the NHS sell-off. The act has massively increased the number of private providers in the NHS. Since this act came in to force, 70% of health services put out to tender have gone to the private sector.
Many of these companies are US-based or have Wall Street investors. Serco, for example, is involved in the provision of health services within the NHS and is owned by big Wall Street investment firms such as Invesco, Fidelity and BlackRock. Now Cameron is set on giving these US investors new powers to sue any future UK government if it makes changes to health policy that might stop the dollars rolling in.
The deal will mean that American investors will be able to haul any UK government that tries to reverse privatisation to a tribunal – the “investor state dispute settlement” that would operate outside the law of this land. These tribunals will have the power to award billions in damages and compensation for lost profits and the loss of projected future profits, with no right of appeal. Yes, that is right – no right of appeal.
In short, the British public would face massive costs to bring NHS services back into public hands, making it nigh on impossible.
The prime minister can’t claim he is being forced into it by Brussels. The British government has a seat at the European trade council, which gave the go ahead for, and must sign off on, any TTIP deal. He could easily protect our healthcare and our democratic right to vote for the health policies we want by insisting on an NHS exemption at the council. He has not done this.
If you, like me, believe that the current sell-off of the NHS is destroying one of this country’s greatest assets and putting our future at risk, then you also need to be worried about TTIP.
The prime minister has used his veto before in Europe and he’s threatened to use it on a number of occasions. He has even opposed capping bankers’ bonuses in Europe, but when it comes to going there to fight for the NHS, he falls silent. It’s clear where his priorities lie.
Cameron acts tough but does not deliver. Despite the rhetoric, he’s weak inEurope. It is time for him to stand up and act, use his veto and exempt the NHS from this dangerous trade deal. This is not about blocking Brussels bureaucrats. This is about our NHS, it is about our future, our health, our children. This time, it’s life and death.