Boris Johnson has clashed with Jeremy Corbyn over fresh claims the NHS will be “up for sale” in trade talks with the US if the Tories are returned to power in the General Election.
With just over two weeks to polling day, the Labour leader produced what he said was “uncensored” government documents showing the NHS would be “on the table” in a post-Brexit trade deal with the Trump administration.
The Prime Minister dismissed the claims as “absolute nonsense”, while the Tories accused Labour of a “stunt” to deflect attention from Mr Corbyn’s difficulties over anti-Semitism and his party’s tax policy.
The row came as Mr Johnson’s top adviser Dominic Cummings warned the election race was “much tighter” than the opinion polls suggested.
He said Leave supporters risked handing victory to Labour if they voted for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in key marginals the Tories need to take if they are to gain an overall majority.
In other developments:
– Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour was “very sorry” for the way it dealt with complaints of anti-Semitism in the past
– Mr Johnson apologised for the “hurt and offence” caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party
– Labour accused the Prime Minister of “running scared” after the BBC disclosed he had yet to agree to a TV grilling by veteran interviewer Andrew Neil.
– A record 659,666 people applied to register to vote on Tuesday ahead of the midnight deadline if they are to vote in the election on December 12
Mr Corbyn flourished 451 pages of official papers which he said the party had obtained covering six rounds of talks between UK and US officials, at a press conference in London.
He said the documents – relating to meetings that took place between July 2017 and July 11 of this year – showed the two sides had discussed opening the NHS to American drug companies.
Mr Corbyn added that the talks were at a “very advanced stage” and that on medicine pricing, the two sides had already concluded discussions on lengthening patents.
“Longer patents can only mean one thing – more expensive drugs. Lives will be put at risk as a result of this,” he said.
“We have now got evidence that under Boris Johnson the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale.
“He tried to cover it up in a secret agenda and today it has been exposed.”
But the Tories hit back, accusing the Labour leader of “out-and-out lying” – deliberately taking passages out of context from documents which had been publicly available online for weeks.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the Labour leader was trying to create a smokescreen to deflect from his other difficulties.
“He has always believed in conspiracy theories – which is why he has failed to crack down on the scourge of anti-Semitism in his party,” she said.
Her comments followed Mr Corbyn’s widely criticised TV interview with Mr Neil in which he repeatedly refused to apologise to the Jewish community for anti-Semitism in Labour.
Speaking to reporters on the campaign trail in Cornwall on Wednesday, Mr Corbyn said the party “deplores” anti-Semitism and regrets what happened to those who suffered abuse but again stopped short of an apology.