The NHS and Europe

Recently a few of us from the Green Party went along to a public debate on EU membership at the University of Derby in Buxton. One of the first things we saw when we arrived was a leaflet from the Brexit camp claiming that the only way to save our NHS is to leave the EU. nhs-resized1A closer look showed that the threat comes from TTIP, the secretive treaty that the US and the EU have been negotiating, whose details have come out in a series of leaks.

The Green Party doesn’t underrate the threat to our democracy and to the health and well-being of Europeans and of our environment that TTIP represents. Green MEPs have been in the forefront of the campaign to cancel TTIP, moving the European Parliament from a position in which they were likely to just rubber stamp the treaty to a much more critical position.

But do we really believe that TTIP is THE immediate threat to our health service? The reorganisation of the NHS in the last parliament already opened the NHS up to privatisation, allowing private firms to cherry pick profitable services. Nothing Jeremy Hunt has done demonstrates a commitment to a publicly funded NHS, free at the point of use – certainly not the arrogant contempt he has shown for the junior doctors.

Recent disclosures show that while other EU governments have insisted on explicit exclusion of their health services from the trade deal, the UK has not. The reasonable conclusion is that a Tory post-Brexit government would allow areas of privatisation to continue and increase, and would write them into UK-only free trade deals.

Thanks to the work done by opponents of TTIP, there is now a real chance of defeating the deal. Of course, that’s not the end of the matter. TTIP is a symptom, an almost inevitable result of the same economic policies that brought is the financial crash in 2008. It sets out the same demands for corporations to be free to exploit human and natural resources, free from all restraint, with economic growth as the only measure of worth. In the Green Party, we believe a different type of economy is both necessary and possible, and that we can work with other Europeans to achieve it. Come and join us!

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