In Brief

Donald Trump backtracks on NHS after outcry

US President tells Good Morning Britain health service 'not part of trade'

Donald Trump has appeared to backtrack on his controversial comments that the NHS would be “on the table” in any post-Brexit trade talks with the UK.

“I think everything with a trade deal is on the table,” he had said at a news conference with Theresa May.

“When you're dealing in trade, everything is on the table - so NHS or anything else, a lot more than that, but everything will be on the table, absolutely.”

However, speaking earlier today to Good Morning Britain he struck a different note.

Asked about the issue, he told Piers Morgan: “I don’t see it being on the table. Somebody asked me a question today and I said everything’s up for negotiation because everything is.

“But I don’t see that as being… that’s not something that I would consider being part of trade. That’s not trade.”

Trump’s original remarks about the NHS were the most eye-catching to come from his news conference. According to The Sun, they sparked a “massive row” as well as provoking a “cross-party backlash”, The Guardian says.

Several Tory leadership contenders rejected the idea. “If Boris Johnson is prime minister the NHS will never be on the negotiating table,” a source close to the former foreign secretary told The Times.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “Dear Mr President. The NHS isn't on the table in trade talks - and never will be. Not on my watch.” Esther McVey echoed the comments: “The NHS would not be on the table in any trade deal I negotiated with the US.”

Rory Stewart declared he would not be “offering up” the NHS in any trade deal, Dominic Raab said the NHS “is not for sale” and “never would be if I was prime minister”, while Sam Gyimah said the health service should not be used as a “bargaining chip”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that a sell-off of the NHS is “what Tory leadership contenders and Farage are lining up for the no-deal disaster capitalism plans they have”. He added: “They all need to understand: our NHS is not for sale.”

The Brexit spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, Tom Brake, said Trump’s suggestion was a “disgrace”. But Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party leader said it was “wilful misinterpretation” to suggest a US trade deal would open the NHS to privatisation.

Today, on the final day of his visit to the UK, Trump will join the Queen and the prime minister in Portsmouth to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. 

Commenting on how Trump’s three-day visit has been treated by Theresa May, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said: “For any prime minister, handling a president like Donald Trump is like trying to hold on to a Ming vase walking across a recently polished, slippery parquet floor.”

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