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We CAN save our NHS from TTIP without Brexit – but let's not declare premature victory

Gail Cartmail of Unite the Union says their legal advice shows the EU still threatens our National Health Service – but that Cameron could fix that without the need for Brexit.

Gail Cartmail
13 April 2016
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Image: Haslemere councillors from across the political spectrum, join local residents to call on local MP Jeremy Hunt to exempt the NHS from TTIP. Rights: People’s NHS

Professor McKee is right to claim that there have been many surreal moments since the Prime Minister announced a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. We can now add Professor McKee himself supporting the UK Government’s position on the NHS and TTIP to this list (The NHS is safest inside the EU).

Unfortunately, at the time of writing TTIP does continue to pose a very real threat to our NHS. The reassurances from the European Commission that Professor McKee relies on are carefully constructed to suggest that TTIP cannot make the Government reverse health policy decisions. However, TTIP as it is currently conceived will allow Wall Street NHS investors to sue the Government for billions of pounds in compensation if it adopts policies that breach TTIP and there are a number of ways that this could happen.

Unite recently commissioned advice from Michael Bowsher QC, a renowned expert in this field of law – a former Chair of the EU law committee of the Bar Council and Co-Chair of the ICC Task Force on Public Procurement. In researching his opinion Mr Bowsher looked at all the reassurances from the Commission quoted by Professor McKee. More importantly, he also examined the latest EU offer to the US on Trade in Services (which was published after all these statements). He concluded that:

“TTIP does pose a threat to a future government wishing to take back control of health services … the safest course would be for the NHS to be the subject of a specific exclusion contained within the main body of the TTIP text, or an Annex II/III reservation provided for the benefit of the UK. Without such a reservation TTIP will pose a real and serious risk to the future ability of UK Government to regulate the NHS.”

As Professor McKee points out, Unite is campaigning to remain in EU and we do not agree with the view that to save the NHS from TTIP you have to back Brexit. David Cameron’s Government has the power to protect the NHS from the real threats posed by TTIP right now – Brexit or no Brexit.

We believe it is important that all of us who want to protect our NHS (no matter where we stand on Europe) continue to demand that the Government exempts the NHS from this trade deal. So it is a great shame when people who really do care about the NHS declare victory prematurely because they have allowed their positions on Europe to distract them from the evidence.

You can read the legal advice in full here.

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