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EU trade decision will help UK better protect NHS whilst Brexit timeline remains uncertain

8th July 2016

Amidst continued uncertainty about the timeline for Brexit, an important decision for democracy has been made regarding EU trade agreements and their ratification at national level.

The European Commission confirmed this week that national governments will have the power to ratify all trade agreements that impact on areas within their legislative control.

This means that the trade agreements like TTIP (between the EU and the US) and the Canadian Trade Agreement will now have to be approved by national government prior to their adoption.

Lawrence Christensen, Group Marketing Director at Benenden, explained: “Benenden has kept engaging with European institutions to call for greater protection of our NHS and healthcare services within the trade agreements. We need to make sure that this is the case as long as the UK is potentially concerned by these new trade agreements. 

“This is a good move for democracy and will allow individual parliaments to check if they have any concerns with this type of trade agreement before the deal is concluded.”

Both trade agreements above contain what some see as a controversial mechanism, which would engineer opportunities for companies to sue governments for compensation and thus within the UK potentially create problems for the NHS should it still be within the European Union. This process of ratification of trade deals is also expected to postpone the final conclusion of the deal as it can take up to five years.

The Canadian Trade Agreement, however, whose text has already been published, will likely enter into force before the United Kingdom has exited the European Union – a vote in the European Parliament is expected to take place about this agreement early 2017.

AIM, the International Association of Mutuality, which Benenden as a UK mutual is part of, has reached out today to the European Parliament to remind them that despite this week’s move, exemptions for healthcare services are still not clear and need to be broader and better defined.

For further information of what the position of AIM is for these trade agreements, please read the AIM Press Release.

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