Nurses and doctors will lead a protest against President Trump in London to highlight what they claim is a threat to Britain’s health service if the United States strikes a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.
Thousands are expected to gather for a rally in Trafalgar Square before marching toward Buckingham Palace, where world leaders will be attending a reception.
Musician Brian Eno is among the speakers due to address the crowd. The Baby Trump blimp, which rose to global fame during Trump’s visit to London last year, is not expected to appear.
Opposition politicians have tried to put the National Health Service — Britain’s single-payer, public health system — at the heart of their campaigns for the Dec. 12 election.
The NHS holds totemic status for many voters, and trade talks with the U.S. have put Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the back foot ever since Trump said in June that “everything”, including the health service, was on the table.
Tony O’Sullivan, a retired consultant pediatrician who is co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, said he did not trust promises made by either leader.
“The government in the U.K. says it is not on the table, but Trump set out in June that the NHS and everything else will be on the table — and that is our fear,” he said. “There’s explicit documentation that the U.S. trade department intends to include … access to drugs, prices, and patents and access to services, including the health service, in the trade deal.”
Organizers of Tuesday’s protest say they are hoping tens of thousands of people will take to the street. But demonstrations during the June state visit were marked by a lackluster turnout amid what observers said was “Trump fatigue.”
The president is due to arrive on Monday night. He will be closely scrutinized for any hints he may give about trade talks. And American officials say he understands that anything he says may have an impact on Britain’s unpredictable election next week.
Johnson has forged a close relationship with the president but has asked Trump to steer clear of political pronouncements during his three-day visit for a NATO meeting.
In a recent interview with the LBC radio station, Johnson said: “It’s best when you have close friends and allies like the U.S. and the U.K. … for neither side to be involved in each other’s election campaigns.”
Washington has published its negotiating objectives, which say that “state-owned enterprises,” such as the NHS, should “accord non-discriminatory treatment” for the purchase and sale of goods and services. It also demands full-market access for American products.
O’Sullivan said drug prices would rise if Washington got its way in a deal.
“The U.S. is trying to impose conditions in a trade deal that will favor the U.S. more than other countries,” he said. “They claim that the price of drugs in the UK are unfairly low — in fact, they are a fair price negotiated because it is a public service negotiating with companies on a large scale.”
Ahead of Trump’s arrival, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded trade talks be suspended until the U.S. negotiating objectives are changed.
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