The prospect of Brexit – especially if the UK pulls out of the single market as UK Prime Minister Theresa May said this week she wishes to do – means many uncertainties for expat rights. However top of the list for many are annual pension uprating (increases) and covering costs of expat pensioners’ healthcare, as expats told MPs today (click here for video).
This is because for expats in many – not all – countries outside the EU, Britain freezes their pensions at the rate when they left the UK or when they start to draw the pension. This is as opposed to the ‘triple-lock’ which guarantees pensions rise each year for pensioners living in the UK or in 16 countries with social security agreements on pensions, such as the USA, Jamaica or the Philippines.
However in many countries, such as Canada, Australia or New Zealand UK pension payments never go up.
As Connexion reported in November, a social security agreement existed between the UK and France before the UK entered the EEC, and increases were paid (see here, page 5, point 4: Frozen overseas pensions), however the agreement is considered to have since been ‘superceded’ by EU free movement rules which prevent discrimination against British people moving within the EU.
As for healthcare, British OAPs have the right to French healthcare paid for by the UK under the EU’s S1 form scheme. If this was abolished without replacement, it could mean pensioners having to either take out full private healthcare policies, or – if permitted by France - joining the French state’s ‘PUMA’ scheme, which requires payments at a proportion of income for all but the poorest.
Speaking to MPs today, Spanish resident Sue Wilson said: “These are the biggest two issues – and both of those are paid for by the UK government so why is there a need to wait two and a half years to find out if we can keep those? It’s not something that has to be negotiated with the Spanish government or Italian government or the EU. It’s a decision the UK can make for its own citizens, and we are as British as any British citizen that lives in the UK and decision are made for them all the time.”
She was supported by the president of the British Community Committee of France, Christopher Chantrey, who said: “I agree when something can be done under UK law, it should be done as soon as possible. I also believe a resolution should be passed by both houses of parliament at the moment of triggering article 50, calling on the other member states to reciprocate [in maintaining existing rights of British expats if Britain maintains them for EU expats in the UK], so that these issues are solved and put to bed right at the start of the negotiation process, so they can get on with the enormous task of negotiating all the other matters.”
Other points covered in the hearing ranged from the basic right to stay in France – which would not be guaranteed if Britons lost EU citizenship – to equivalence of qualifications between the EU and UK, which is guaranteed under EU rules.
We will be following up further on these points in our February edition of the Connexion newspaper, with subscribers and on sale in shops next week.