President Donald Trump promised the US and UK could as much as triple their trade after Brexit, but stirred controversy by hinting that Britain’s government-run health system could be opened to American companies.
Trump said later in an interview with ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” that the U.K.’s National Health Service wouldn’t be part of trade negotiations.
“As the U.K. makes preparations to exit the European Union, the United States is committed to a phenomenal trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K.,” Trump said Tuesday in London during a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May. “There is tremendous potential in that trade deal. I say probably two or even three times of what we’re doing right now.”
Earlier, he and May hinted at a major obstacle in future talks: U.K.’s cherished NHS, which sets prices and pays for hospital care, drugs and other medical services in the country. Many British politicians oppose including the NHS in trade talks.
Trump has advocated for the U.K. to leave the European Union and aligned himself with some of its staunchest Brexit proponents. Earlier Tuesday, he told May and a group of executives that he sees “a very, very substantial trade deal” between the U.S. and U.K. once it leaves the EU.
May also endorsed a U.S. trade deal.
“Mr. President, you and I agreed the first time we met that we should aim for an ambitious free-trade agreement when the U.K. leaves the EU,” she said. “And from our positive discussions today, I know that we both remain committed to this.”
The discussion largely glossed over the many complications that would arise in trade talks, and the two leaders only nodded at health care, potentially one of the biggest conflicts. Trump, echoing other U.S. officials, said that negotiations would involve the whole of the U.K. economy, including the health system.
“When you’re dealing in trade, everything is on the table,” he said. “So NHS or anything else, or a lot more than that, everything will be on the table.”
May responded: “The point about making trade deals is of course that both sides negotiate and come to an agreement about what should or should not be in that trade deal for the future.”
U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a tweet that "the NHS isn’t on the table in trade talks. Not on my watch."
Trump walked back his suggestion in the ITV interview.
“I don’t see it being on the table,” he said. “Somebody asked me a question today and I said everything is up for negotiation because everything is. But I don’t see that being -- that’s something that I would not consider part of trade.” [...]
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