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Donald Trump U-turns on calls for NHS to be covered in 'phenomenal' post-Brexit trade deal after backlash

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 04/06/2019 Sean Morrison
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Donald Trump has rowed back on his call for the NHS to be covered in a new UK-US trade deal after Brexit.

The US leader had used a joint conference with Theresa May during his UK visit to say the health service would be “on the table” as part of a potential deal. But in a major U-turn on his suggestion, the president said it was in fact something he “would not consider part of trade”.

He appeared to soften his stance following a backlash from Tory leadership candidates, Labour and trade unions.

Donald Trump standing in front of a flag: Donald Trump speaks at the Foreign Office in London (Neil Hall/EPA) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Donald Trump speaks at the Foreign Office in London (Neil Hall/EPA)

Mr Trump told Good Morning Britain's Piers Morgan: "I don't see it being on the table. Somebody asked me a question today and I say everything is up for negotiation, because everything is.

He added: "But I don't see that as being, that something that I would not consider part of trade. That's not trade."

The president earlier said the NHS could form part of a "phenomenal" potential transatlantic deal made between the UK and US after Britain leaves the European Union.

Gallery: US President Donald Trump visits the UK (Picture Services)

At his joint press conference with the Prime Minister, Mr Trump held out the prospect of a deal that could potentially triple the volume of trade between the two countries.

At the same time, he made clear that there could be no limit to the scope of their discussions. “I think everything with a trade deal is on the table," he said.

"When you're dealing in trade, everything is on the table - so NHS or anything else, a lot more than that, but everything will be on the table, absolutely."

a man standing in front of a flag: The US President and Theresa May hold a joint conference on Tuesday (PA) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited The US President and Theresa May hold a joint conference on Tuesday (PA)

Mrs May appeared to be taken aback by his comments, retorting: "The point in making trade deals is of course that both sides negotiate and come to an agreement about what should or should not be in that trade deal for the future."

Following a backlash from Tory leadership candidates, Labour and trade unions, Mr Trump softened his stance.

Mr Trump's eventful visit to the UK will continue on Wednesday, when is expected to meet Tory leadership hopefuls Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a joint news conference at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, in London, Britain June 4, 2019. David Rose/Pool via REUTERS © Thomson Reuters Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a joint news conference at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, in London, Britain June 4, 2019. David Rose/Pool via REUTERS

He also held out the prospect of a meeting in the future with Jeremy Corbyn after snubbing him during this visit.

Asked if he could imagine negotiating a trade deal with a government led by Mr Corbyn, the president told Good Morning Britain: "It's always possible. Anything is possible."

He said he "didn't think it was appropriate" to meet Mr Corbyn "but I would".

Nigel Farage et al. posing for the camera: Trump greets now-Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage at a rally in 2016 (AP) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Trump greets now-Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage at a rally in 2016 (AP)

"I certainly would have no problem with it," he added.

The Labour leader addressed crowds of protesters on Tuesday as Mr Trump met the Prime Minister.

Among those who have had meetings with the president are Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and senior Tory Eurosceptics Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson.

Tory leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson was offered a meeting but declined in order to attend a hustings in Westminster, although he had a 20-minute phone conversation with the president.

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during a rally against U.S. President Donald Trump, in London, Britain, June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville © Thomson Reuters Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during a rally against U.S. President Donald Trump, in London, Britain, June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The expected meetings with Mr Hunt and Mr Gove come after the president was asked about the Tory leadership race during his press conference on Tuesday.

"I know Boris. I like him. I have liked him for a long time. I think he would do a very good job. I know Jeremy, I think he would do a very good job," he said.

He then turned to Mr Hunt and joked: "I don't know Michael - would he do a good job, Jeremy?"

Despite Mr Trump's suggestion that he did not know Mr Gove, the two men have met - the Environment Secretary interviewed the then president-elect at Trump Tower for a story published in The Times in January 2017.

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