Lords debate bill on healthcare of Britons in EU

generic image of unidentifiable doctor with a stethoscope

A British government bill aimed at helping the UK make bilateral healthcare deals with EU countries in the event of a no-deal Brexit is being debated in the House of Lords today.

The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill 2017-2019 empowers the government to fund and negotiate healthcare deals in the event of British state pensioners being left without the ‘S1 form’ arrangements for their healthcare in countries like France after the UK leaves the EU. Such deals could also potentially include arrangements to replace the loss of the Ehic scheme for holiday visitors and second home owners.

At present if the UK leaves with no deal nothing is in place with regard to the funding of British pensioners’ healthcare in France from March 30, 2019 (see here for more about this). The bill being debated today does not solve the issue but formalises the UK’s willingness to agree and pay for similar arrangements to the S1 as part of reciprocal deals. You can watch the debate this afternoon at this link.

It has already passed through the House of Commons and could become law quickly unless there are amendments introduced by the Lords with which the MPs do not agree.

It comes as campaign coalition British in Europe has written to UK Prime Minister Theresa May urging the UK to offer unilaterally to continue paying for British pensioners’ healthcare while waiting for any new bilateral deals to be signed.

BiE also continue to urge both the UK and EU to put citizen’s rights first by agreeing to sign a deal only on rights if no overall EU/UK withdrawal agreement is reached – known as ‘ring-fencing’ the rights. This is supported by a group of MPs scrutinising the work of the Brexit Ministry, the Exiting the EU Select Committee.

Meanwhile 25 British MEPs have written to EU leaders asking the EU to put in place EU-wide safeguards for the rights of British people living in the EU and saying that "it is unacceptable that our EU citizens have been subject to such uncertainty for so long".

At present the EU’s approach to no-deal has been to leave arrangements to each country individually and details of a new French no-deal law on British people’s rights are expected tomorrow. France recently passed a law empowering the government to make special emergency laws by order to manage problems arising from no-deal, including British residents losing their legal residency status in France.

Mrs May is now seeking new tweaks to the negotiated deal which was voted down by the House of Commons last month. She will return from discussions with the EU next week for a new vote on February 14.

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