UK election: Leaked documents shed light on US’s post-Brexit priorities
Papers do not prove Corbyn’s NHS claims, but they raise questions about UK’s future choices
Jeremy Corbyn with redacted versions of the leak documents on Wednesday. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
The Conservatives did their utmost on Wednesday to rubbish the unredacted, official documents Jeremy Corbyn presented as evidence that the National Health Service (NHS) would be on the table in a future trade deal with the United States. They pointed out that the NHS was mentioned only a handful of times in the 451 pages and that the documents were posted on Reddit two months ago, although almost nobody noticed.
The documents do not, as Corbyn claims, prove that Boris Johnson wants to put the NHS up for sale in a deal with Donald Trump. But they shed light on US priorities in such a deal and Washington’s approach to Brexit more generally. And Corbyn has done voters a service by introducing into the campaign some discussion of the consequences of Johnson’s preferred form of Brexit and the choices Britain will have to make over trade.
The documents reveal that the US is hoping that Britain will be more flexible in trade talks than the EU and that London will accept that everything should be on the table unless explicitly excluded.
‘Total market access’
“The EU could never wrap their minds around this situation. They kept asking for US priorities, which was not something the US was asking for, and therefore not something we would or could offer up. The US wanted total market access to be the baseline, and the EU simply didn’t understand that. It led to stalemate in the negotiating process,” one of the documents says.
The documents also demonstrate that Britain will have to choose between a high level of alignment with the EU and access to the US market. And the EU has already made clear that it will not grant Britain a high level of access to its market without guarantees on employment, environmental and consumer standards that are incompatible with US demands.
Labour will hope that the documents help to move public attention away from Corbyn’s disastrous performance in a BBC interview with Andrew Neil on Tuesday. At a press conference about the trade documents on Wednesday, Corbyn faced a number of questions about antisemitism but only one on his admission that Labour’s tax plans could adversely affect some people on lower incomes.
Neil skewered Nicola Sturgeon in an interview earlier this week and Jo Swinson and Nigel Farage will face him next week. But the BBC revealed on Tuesday that it has not yet been able to agree a date to interview Johnson. Don’t hold your breath.