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Corbyn says documents show NHS is 'on the table' in trade talks with US

Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

By Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

Labour has accused the Conservatives of negotiating a secret trade deal with the US to open up the NHS to American pharmaceutical companies.

Jeremy Corbyn said they had obtained uncensored Government documents showing talks were at a "very advanced stage".

He said the 451 pages covered six rounds of negotiations - taking place in Washington and London - starting in July 2107 to "just a few months ago".

Speaking at a news conference in London, the Labour leader said the papers gave the lie to Boris Johnson's claims that the NHS would not be part of any trade talks.

"The uncensored documents leave Boris Johnson's denials in absolute tatters," the told a news conference in London.

"We have now got evidence that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale.

"He tried to cover it up in a secret agenda and today it has been exposed."

On medicine pricing, he said the documents showed discussions had already been concluded between the two sides on lengthening patents.

"Longer patents can only mean one thing - more expensive drugs. Lives will be put at risk as a result of this," he said.

He pointed to the example to the drug Humira - used to treat Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis - which costs the NHS £1,409 a packet while in the US the price was £8,115.

Mr Corbyn said that according to the readout of the second meeting, UK officials noted the "patent issues" around "NHS access to generic drugs will be a key consideration" in talks.

By the fourth meeting, he said, the officials on the two sides were ready to "exchange text" and to "really take significant further steps" - suggesting the negotiations were at a "very advanced stage".