I am glad to hear that Ministers have had excellent engagement with industry and I have been assured that if everyone does what they are supposed to, the supply of medicines to the UK in the event of a no deal exit will be uninterrupted.
The Department of Health and Social Care has written to all medicine suppliers asking that they continue preparations for all negotiation outcomes. I believe that this is important in order to minimise the risk of disruption. Ministers have also announced a £25 million express freight service to deliver small parcels of medicines and medical products on a 24-hour basis and larger pallets on a 2- to 4-day basis.
Temperature-controlled products will be delivered by express freight if required and work continues to ensure that medicines imported from the EU with a short shelf-live, such as radioisotopes, can be imported by air in a no deal scenario.
The Government has also been clear that it wants EU nationals currently working in the NHS to stay in this country after we leave the EU. After the country leaves the EU, the UK will set its own immigration policy but the Department of Health and Social Care will ensure that there is sufficient staff to continue delivering high quality services.
The precise detail on future healthcare arrangements will be a matter for the future partnership negotiations but the Government has been clear that there should be continued participation in the EHIC scheme after the UK leaves the EU. In the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal, my ministerial colleagues have proposed maintaining existing healthcare arrangements, including an EHIC type arrangement, until 31 December 2020 in order to minimise disruption.
Like you, I cherish our National Health Service and the role it plays in ensuring that no-one is denied medical treatment because they cannot afford it. The Government has been repeatedly clear that our NHS will never be on the table in any trade negotiations, a position I fully support.
Free trade is a driver of economic growth which can raise incomes, create jobs, and lift people out of poverty, which is why I am glad that outside of the EU the UK will be able to strike new trade agreements with countries across the globe. But more trade should not come at the expense of the high levels of quality and protection enjoyed in our country.
In the EU trade agreements to which our country is currently party, our NHS is protected by specific exceptions and reservations. Outside of the EU, rigorous protections for our NHS will be maintained and included in any future trade agreement to which our country is party.
Following the US state visit, I welcomed President Trump's clarification to his remarks about a potential US-UK trade agreement, in which he stated: "I don't see it [the NHS] being on the table" in negotiations.
With specific regard to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms in trade agreements, the Government is considering the future approach. However, it is important to note ISDS does not, and cannot, force the privatisation of public services or oblige the Government to open the NHS to further competition.