UK ‘should act now on pension uprating’

Uprating the state pensions of Britons living in France for life – and not just three years – in a no-deal Brexit is in the gift of the UK government and should be guaranteed now, a Tory MP has told the British prime minister.

25 September 2019
By Oliver Rowland

Britain must also immediately guarantee healthcare payments of its state pensioners living abroad in the EU or risk an “exodus… of very many elderly people to the UK,” he said.

Sir Roger Gale wrote to Boris Johnson demanding guarantees on these issues, plus on the long-term continuation of “exported” disability benefits.

It comes as many pensioners across the EU expressed surprise and indignation at receiving a text from the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stating they would ‘carry on getting their pensions’ after Brexit on October 31.

Pension uprating means an annual increase of at least 2.5% (around £220 a year for a full pension) and has been guaranteed for 2020, 2021 and 2022 in a no-deal or for life in the deal.

The government says uprating in the long term would require the UK to sign bilateral deals.

The UK justifies not uprating pensions in countries such as Australia or Canada on the grounds that it has no bilateral agreement with them on this.

As an EU member it is obliged to uprate pensions due to free movement laws – and it also does so in countries with which it has agreements, such as Barbados, Kosovo, Turkey and the US.

Elsewhere, pensions are frozen at the rate at which Britons there first claim or at the rate the pension was when they left the UK.

An agreement previously existed with France but was superseded by EU rules.

Britons in the EU who have paid UK National Insurance contributions in expectation of claiming a British pension but are not yet of state pension age are also affected.

Sir Roger wrote to Mr Johnson after an exchange in Parliament in which the prime minister seemed to misunderstand, saying it was up to the EU countries to be generous to British expatriates, as he said the UK would be to EU citizens in the UK.

Sir Roger told Connexion he has had no reply to the letter (tinyurl.com/yxtqyr2g). “My guess is they don’t know how to answer,” he said. He said the reply in Parliament was “useless” and “just bluster”.

The government could act on the three issues unilaterally if it chooses to, he said.

The UK states on gov.uk that those claiming exportable benefits will be able to do so in a no-deal but Sir Roger said he wants clear guarantees that the right will last in the long term.

In the past, a then-Labour government had been reluctant to pay these benefits but was forced to do so by EU law. Sir Roger fought for this at the time.

On healthcare, there remains doubt over who would pay, both in a two-year period during which French no-deal laws say UK pensioners would remain in the system as now, and after that.

Currently, the UK pays in an EU system using S1 forms. It would be impossible for many to take out full private policies as pre-existing conditions would exclude this.  

Sir Roger said: “People want certainty. The older you get, the more flustered you feel if you don’t know what’s happening. People living on pensions have already seen them drop by a third in recent years due to the fall in the pound.”

  • Britons living abroad in the EU who fall sick after a no-deal Brexit and are asked to pay for treatment as they are not covered in other ways would only have the costs picked up by the UK for six months, the UK government announced on September 23. This will affect state pensioners with S1s. See more at tinyurl.com/y6nnzhc2

 Connexion’s new helpguide Brexit and Britons in France covers the practical issues after a deal or a no-deal for residents and visitors. It is available in PDF format at connexionfrance.com for €12.50

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