Like you, I cherish our National Health Service and its guiding principles: that it is universal and free at the point of need. The Government has been repeatedly clear that our NHS will never be on the table in any trade agreements, a position I fully support.
More trade is essential if the UK is to overcome the unprecedented economic challenge posed by Covid-19, and new trade agreements are an important part of the long-term economic recovery.
A UK/US free trade agreement will aim to secure comprehensive, far-reaching and mutually beneficial tariff reductions, reducing the £493 million worth of tariffs levied on UK exports to the US each year. A free trade agreement will increase access to the US market for UK businesses, and lower prices and increase choice for UK consumers. A free trade agreement with the US will also enable the UK to protect its interests when threatened by unexpected surges in imports of goods or unfair trading practices, while making the appropriate commitments to transparency, due process and proportionate use of trade remedies. It will also remove trade distorting tariffs.
Over 31,600 small British businesses are already exporting goods to the US. The Government will seek to include a specific SME chapter in a US free trade agreement to support and further stimulate this trade.
Our team of negotiators will drive a hard bargain for all British industries and people. We are committed to our red lines – the NHS, the price it pays for drugs and its services are not for sale. It is in the interests of both the UK and US to reach an agreement, but we will walk away from the negotiating table if the right deal is not on offer. In addition you mention food standards in trade deals. I was proud to have voted for the amendment to the Agriculture Bill to uphold our high animal health and welfare and food standards in any future trade deals. Sadly,this did not pass but I will continue to stand up for our Cumbrian farmers and work to ensure that these standards are upheld. As a vet I feel incredibly strongly on this issue as I do about the importance of protecting our NHS; please know that.
I am assured that the Government is committed to transparency and will ensure that parliamentarians, UK citizens and businesses have access to the information they need on our trade negotiations.
With best wishes and please keep safe,