Camden hustings: Privatisation of NHS a key battleground in European elections
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
The fight to secure the future of the NHS and stop privatisation is being seen as a key battleground for MEP candidates as voters get ready to head to the polls.
In a sign of the growing importance of the EU in domestic politics, candidates from the Labour Party, the Green Party and the new National Health Action Party (NHA) standing in the European elections on May 22 have described the vote as “vital to the future of a public health service”.
Several have attempted to raise awareness of an EU/US free trade agreement being negotiated between Brussels and Washington – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Proponents claim its aim is to remove trade barriers in a number of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the two continents.
An audience listening to MEP candidates at the London Irish Centre, Camden Square, heard, however, that TTIP would allow the NHS to be “carved open” by US private healthcare giants.
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The landmark trade agreement would allow transatlantic companies to bid for NHS contracts and sue the government should its actions affect profit.
Louise Irvine, standing for the NHA, said: “If TTIP does go through then the NHS would be locked into privatisation.
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“Even if the British public changed government and wanted to undo the damage done, they couldn’t.
“The EU regulates issues around our medicines, food labelling and doctors.
“All are influenced by the EU and mean the European elections are very relevant for those who care about our healthcare system.”
Defending the free trade agreement, the Department of Health said if passed it had the potential to benefit patients “through promoting collaboration across the pharmaceutical and life science sectors”.
But Caroline Allen, London MEP candidate from the Green Party, disagreed, saying: “We want Europe to be a Europe for people, not for corporations.”
Lucy Anderson, London MEP candidate for the Labour Party, added: “My main fear is that big US companies will be given more access to our NHS services – taking it out of our control.”
The Greens, NHA and Labour have all called for the NHS to be protected from the TTIP agreement.