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Beyond Brexit - International trade and health

The UK will be able to negotiate new international trade agreements after Brexit. Trade agreements can change policy in ways that affect health, both within the UK and globally. These include policies on procurement and provision of public services, regulation to promote public health, food safety standards and intellectual property rights. To avoid negatively impacting public health and the healthcare sector, the UK should not enter into agreements that prioritise economic benefits over health. 

Key points

  • As part of its preliminary trade discussions, the UK is coming under pressure from non-EU countries to change its trade policy in ways that could negatively impact health post-Brexit.
  • The UK Parliament does not currently have sufficient oversight of trade negotiations to guard against these impacts. The BMA is calling for Parliament to have adequate powers to scrutinise trade agreements, including access to negotiating texts and the automatic right to a positive vote on the final text of trade deals.
  • The UK Government should rule out entering into trade agreements that would allow private overseas companies to provide healthcare, and particularly NHS services, or include investor protection mechanisms that could limit the UK’s future ability to regulate in the interest of public health. Future trade agreements should not permit any weakening of current high product safety standards, including the animal welfare and environmental safety standards for food items, or strengthening of intellectual property rights that could limit the ability of developing countries to procure generic medicines.
  • Without these commitments and greater Parliamentary scrutiny of trade negotiations, mounting pressure to secure trade deals ahead of Brexit creates a considerable risk of Ministers entering into agreements that promote economic gain over health.

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Brexit briefing: Beyond Brexit - International trade and health

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Find out more

For further information on this briefing, please contact Susan Bahl, Brexit lead:

Phone: 020 3058 7457

Email: [email protected]

Read more BMA Brexit briefings