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Britain's health service not for sale in US free-trade talks

LONDON (AP) — Any free-trade deal with the United States must protect Britain's cherished National Health Service, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government declared Sunday as it published an outline of its negotiating objectives for the transatlantic deal.

The British government estimates its economy will get a 3.4 billion-pound ($4.3 billion) boost and trade between the close allies will increase by 15.3 billion pounds ($19.6 billion) if trade barriers between the United Kingdom and the United States are removed.

Talks are scheduled to start later this month. “We have the best negotiators in the business and of course, we’re going to drive a hard bargain to boost British industry," Johnson said. “Trading Scottish smoked salmon for Stetson hats, we will deliver lower prices and more choice for our shoppers.”

Among objectives outlined Sunday were a clear statement saying that British negotiators would protect the state-funded National Health Service. “The NHS is not for sale and the government is committed to the guiding principles of the NHS — that it is universal and free at the point of use,” the government statement said.

Talks with the United States come as London is also trying to negotiate the terms of a new trade relationship with the European Union following its Brexit departure from the bloc earlier this year. Johnson last year acknowledged that hammering out a mutually acceptable deal with President Donald Trump's administration would be tricky.

“I know that you guys are pretty tough negotiators,” Johnson told U.S. Vice President Mike Pence when they met last year in London. “So we’re going to work very hard to make sure that that free trade deal is one that works for all sides.”

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