UK 'must pledge to keep paying for OAPs' healthcare'

Campaigners for rights of Britons living abroad in the EU are calling on the UK to promise unilaterally to keep paying for British state pensioners’ healthcare in EU countries like France in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

31 January 2019
By Oliver Rowland

British in Europe made the call in a letter to Theresa May today, which co-chairwoman Fiona Godrey said also calls for the UK to unilaterally promise to keep uprating the state pensions of Britons established in EU countries.

BiE is proposing that the UK should a promise to pay unilaterally for Britons' healthcare for at least two years to avoid any dangerous break in pensioners’ health coverage.

In fact as long ago as January 2017 groups for Britons in the EU were telling British MPs about fears for the healthcare and pensions of Britons abroad in the EU, and asking that the UK give reassurance on these areas that are the UK's responsibility (see link); and then in February 2017 campaigners told British MPs of fears that Britons could be forced to return to the UK 'in droves' if the EU's S1 form scheme ended for them with nothing in its place. Connexion also wrote in February 2016 that a Brexit could mean "Britain would no longer issue S1 forms allowing British pensioners to have French healthcare paid for by the UK". 

At present as we reported earlier this week arrangements for British state pensioners in France to continue having healthcare cover in France after a no-deal Brexit are unclear, with just two months to go before the planned Brexit day, although France is organising emergency French laws to help avoid the worst effects of no-deal on Britons in France, which may include clarifications about their healthcare coverage.

If the UK leaves with no deal then existing arrangements whereby the UK issues the EU’s S1 form to its state pensioners in other EU countries so they can have state healthcare paid for by the UK, are at present set to end on March 29, 2019. Many pensioners have been warned that their S1s' validity will run out then and that nothing is in place for their continued cover. See our article linked to above for more analysis.

We have asked the UK’s Department of Health if they wish to comment on BiE’s call or on rumours that talks on a possible France/UK bilateral deal on pensioners’ healthcare after a no-deal are well advanced.

Another area of rights, among many, left in doubt by a no-deal scenario is pensions. The deal the EU and UK negotiated says that British people in France before Brexit (or before the end of a transition period to the end of 2020) would continue to receive UK state pensions revalued upwards (‘uprated’) every year, including for people who have not yet started to claim but will do in future. Britain has, as for healthcare, indicated willingness to enter into bilateral deals with EU countries on this if it becomes necessary due to a no-deal, however so far no such deals have been done.

A useful table showing rights now, under the deal, or in a no-deal has been drawn up by British in Europe and can be found on page 3 of the latest newsletter of the ECREU group here.

British in Europe meanwhile have called on the EU and UK once again to agree to ‘ring-fence’ the rights part of the negotiated agreement, which would resolve both of these problems, and they were backed by the UK House of Commons’ Exiting the EU Select Committee earlier this week.  

Ms Godrey made the same demand in a speech to the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee last week in which she said that both Mrs May and EU negotiator Michel Barnier had promised to protect rights of Britons in the EU but that, with Brexit imminent, we were a long way from seeing these promises fulfilled.

She told MEPs: "In the event of a no deal, take the existing text on citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement and ring fence it with the UK. Make that your Article 50 Agreement and give us the protection of an international treaty. Because if we cannot rely on the EU, who can? And if we cannot rely on the EU now, when can we? This is your moment to show that the EU is a union of citizens and not just a club of states. Please seize it before it’s too late."

Previous articles

MP pushes for reassurance on uprating of UK state pensions for Britons in the EU

Healthcare anguish for British retirees abroad in EU

Warning to MPs of expat health risk

MPs told UK can guarantee health and pensions now

How might Brexit affect expatriates

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