Mr Hancock took to social media after an interview by US ambassador Woody Johnson in which he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr the whole of the economy, including the NHS, would be “on the table” in talks about a possible trade deal after Brexit. The MP, who is currently a 40-1 outside to win the leadership contest according to the oddschecker.com website, posted: “My American friends, know this: The NHS is not for sale. “Yes we’d love to make it cheaper to buy your life-saving pharmaceuticals.
“But the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade talks.”
Mr Hancock’s intervention followed other criticisms of Mr Johnson’s remarks.
Fellow Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart retweeted a post by the Independent’s Europe correspondent Jon Stone which included a clip of Mr Johnson’s interview Jon Stone, commenting: “I feel like as the US ambassador to Britain, you have one job when you go on TV: don’t say you want to privatise the NHS via a trade agreement. Let’s see how this guy manages…”
Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary said: “The ambassador’s comments are terrifying, and show that a real consequence of a no deal Brexit, followed by a trade deal with Trump, will be our NHS up for sale.
“This absolutely should not be on the table.
Mr Ashworth added: “Nigel Farage and the Tories want to rip apart our publicly funded and provided NHS. Labour will always defend it.”
Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: “It’s obvious why Donald Trump wants a No Deal Brexit.
“He sees the opportunity to bring a weak and desperate UK to the negotiating table. Our NHS is on the line.”
Mr Johnson was speaking after he was asked about fears that a free trade deal with the US would mean American pharmaceutical and medical corporations getting a slice of the NHS.
He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “Oh I don’t think they’d be put in any particular position regarding that.
“Your national healthcare service is the pride of the country.
“It’s a highly emotionally charged issue.”
But asked if he thought healthcare would have to be part of the deal, he replied: “I think probably the entire economy, in a trade deal all things that are traded will be on the table.”
Pressed on whether that included healthcare, Mr Johnson said: “I would think so.”
In 2014 Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, whom Mr Trump yesterday said should be appointed to handle any future Brexit negotiations with Brussels, advocated a move away from state-funded healthcare.
Then-UKIP leader Mr Farage was recorded telling supporters: “I think we’re going to have to think about healthcare very, very differently.
“I think we are going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare.”