At prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, the Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, challenged May over how she would respond if Washington pushed for access to Britain’s public services for US corporations.
“The prime minister knows that one of the key objectives of American trade negotiators in any future deal after Brexit is to secure access for American companies to business in the NHS,” he said. “Can she give an absolute guarantee that in those negotiations the NHS will be excluded from their scope? And can she confirm that in her conversations with President Trump she’s made it absolutely clear to him that the NHS is not for sale?”
The prime minister refused to do so, instead insisting that Cable, a former business secretary, “doesn’t know what they’re going to say in their requirements for that free trade agreement. We will go into those negotiations to get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom.”
Afterwards May’s press secretary repeatedly refused to comment further. He stressed that as part of TTIP, the US-EU trade deal that has never been finalised, the UK had secured exemptions to ensure the NHS could not be targeted.
However, he would not rule out, in principle, US private sector involvement in the NHS in future.