Brexit, the NHS, TTIP and Thatcherism

There comes a time (frequently in my case) when one needs to raise one’s hands and declare I just don’t understand enough, but given the importance of certain subjects it is difficult to refrain from chipping in with one’s two penneth worth, but hopefully on the basis of factual consideration. Reflecting on the title, we have before us four enormously weighty topics that each warrant standalone consideration, if for no other reason they are all “hot” as well as controversial. The exception might be Thatcherism. While the Iron Lady is no longer with us and things have moved on considerably since her hey day in the 70’s and 80’s, yet as any history buff will tell you, you need to understand the past in order to figure out the present. As for the relationships between these four topics, while these may appear tenuous, these are still in my view significant.

Going back to Margaret Thatcher, it was just over a year ago that I reflected on her remarkable legacy, good or bad, and whether we like it or not is still with us. Personally, I did well under Thatcher. My own consultancy business took off, thanks to her hand’s off approach, I brought my parent’s council house under the right to buy scheme, her stand off with, among others, print unions meant that my own niche in computing then came into its own, and as much as I felt uncomfortable with selling off the family silver, I did well from trading shares in the newly privatized companies that came about. But there will be those that agree with one writer: “Privatisation! Free trade! Shares for all! The great con that ruined Britain”.  When it came to the NHS, while she managed to convince many that the “NHS is safe with us”, as I reflect on what the present government is doing, which has among other things ramifications in the ongoing junior doctors dispute, I turn to one article, significantly written two years ago. It begins “the Cameron/Lansley NHS reforms, to privatise the NHS, are the biggest in its history. In terms of scale that may be true, but in terms of their direction of travel, that was set 25 years ago by the NHS review announced by Margaret Thatcher in 1988” and ends “But now Cameron is about to fulfil the dream of Thatcher by starting to complete the process to end the NHS as a publicly provided, publicly financed body. We are moving away from the traditional health service to one ruled by bogus choice, competition, market forces and supplier diversity. And in this sort of health service the chronically and terminally ill, the mentally ill, those from lower socio-economic groups and the elderly are likely to lose out. The young and able and the privileged who have ease of access to health.com will be the likely winners”.

This brings me to another article, titled: “Brexit is necessary to protect NHS from TTIP, says David Owen. Before I go on, I should point out that I am now introducing the other two of my important topics from my title into the mix: Brexit and TTIP. While I have a good idea of what Brexit entails and have already given my work in progress deliberations on the matter, I am less sure about TTIP, given it is something that has been creeping up on us and where a lot of the negotiations to date has been in secret (I am grateful to some of my Facebook friends for helping to put me straight on the matter, and among them are those that look upon developments in the NHS and TTIP with grave concern yet are opposed to Brexit). One not altogether neutral article writes thus:The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. As a bi-lateral trade agreement, TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations … Since before TTIP negotiations began last February, the process has been secretive and undemocratic … Here are six other reasons why we should be scared of TTIP, very scared indeed” and then goes on to discuss the six: Food and environmental safety, Banking regulations, Privacy, Jobs, Democracy and, pertinent to this discussion, the NHS.

Going back to Lord Owen’s pronouncements on these matters, these include: “The NHS will be at risk of further privatisation if Britain stays in the EU because of the major trade deal being negotiated with the US … it would be impossible to take the NHS back to its original purpose unless the UK votes to leave in the June referendum … We are agreed in Vote Leave that, whatever our political views on the present marketisation of the NHS, decisions on the NHS should for the future be for the UK parliament and devolved administrations to take. It should not be for the European commission nor the European parliament … leaving the EU was the only way to regain control over the NHS.” The article (not Owen) also puts certain store on the strains on the NHS given the level of immigration as a result of being in the EU, which personally makes me uncomfortable and fearful that the EU In/Out debate may be hijacked and become warped, when what is needed is a careful examination of the facts. On a different tack, this being whether UK science will be better off in or out of the EU, and while not agreeing entirely with his conclusions, in another article I read, titled: “The scientific impact of Brexit: it’s complicated” I found it to be helpful.

When I began this article, I wasn’t sure which one of “Brexit, the NHS, TTIP and Thatcherism” should be my main emphasis. The likely truth is that all these things were whirling around in my mind and I just wanted to get it all off my chest. My mind is still not fully made up, but what is evident there is a lot of reading to sift through and arguments to evaluate, as well as do what most of us do and rely on gut instinct and the values we hold. I would like to think that anyone reading this will want to do so from the perspective of wanting what is best for our country. We learned this week that the government is going to spend a significant sum of money on sending out posh propaganda to every UK household telling us why we should vote to remain in the UK. This is NOT imho a healthy state of affairs and, in the light of recently reported financial improprieties, I am even more skeptical truth will be the winner. It is one reason why I blog and discuss with whoever, including them that see things differently to me. The big question in the Brexit debate, as well as the future of the NHS and whether or not TTIP is a good thing, is what sort of country do we want? With that profound thought, and with household chores beckoning, I finish … for the time being!

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