UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has admitted on Tuesday that a post-Brexit trade deal with the US could see the cost of drugs purchased by Britain's National Health Service (NHS) increase.
While speaking to Sky News' Adam Boulton, Raab was asked if Washington would be able to “jack up prices.” The Foreign Secretary replied, saying that the Americans "will take their decisions."
But he then added: “I think it’s hugely unlikely, why would they do that?”.
In response to which Boulton said: “To get more money, that’s why.”
Mr Raab claimed that it would not be in the US' interests to increase drug prices if “you reduce the amount, the volume of purchases falls.”
“The key point in this is that we will do the right thing by the patients, the consumers in this country,” he insisted.
He repeated that drug pricing or any part of the NHS "is not on the table for negotiations.”
Raab was also grilled about a 147-page publication in 2011 which he co-wrote advocating for increase in private sector involvement in the NHS saying:
"The current monolith should be broken up. Private operators should be allowed into the service and...should compete on price."
Labour's shadow Health & Social Care Secretary Jonathan Ashworth replied to the Foreign Secretary's statements following the interview:
"Dominic Raab has finally admitted what we all know – Boris Johnson is opening the door to a Trump trade deal that will force our NHS medicines bill through the roof."
Dear @DominicRaab don’t desperately spread lies about me to deflect from your on writings advocating privatisation of NHS services. Truth is no one can trust the Tories on the NHS. https://t.co/DTIOs03Imz— Jonathan Ashworth (@JonAshworth) December 3, 2019
The comments come amid strong concern over the future of the NHS in any post-Brexit trade deal with the US. During a visit to the UK for the NATO summit on the same day, US President Donald Trump said:
“I don't even know where that rumour started. We have absolutely nothing to do with it and we wouldn't want to if you handed it to us on a silver platter.”
This is in spite of previous comments from the president saying that the NHS is on the table.
The UK's NHS being on the table for US pharmaceuticals and potential contracts for private providers to enter the health service has been repeatedly denied by the Conservatives as fabrication.
In November, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unveiled 451 unredacted documents which explicitly say that the US was demanding "full market access" to the NHS.
The UK currently negotiates prices through the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which gives the UK the ability to purchase drugs for below US market prices.
Precedent indicates that the US may want to see the removal of NICE, as previous trade deals under US trade representative Robert Lighthizer in recent years have seen trade deals struck with South Korea, Mexico and Canada, all of which led to concessions to the US over the price of drugs.