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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Ex-pat pensioners to suffer from no-deal Brexit

I recall the time when the Tories relied on overseas voters to win seats like the Vale of Glamorgan. I am not so sure that they will have quite the same level of support from continent-based Brits if they crash us out of Europe without a deal.

There has been a lot written about the impact of Brexit on European citizens living in the UK, but we must not forget that there is approximately three million UK citizens living elsewhere in the European Union. And as The Sunday Times reveals, that could lead to some dire consequences, for those dependant on international agreements for their health care.

The paper says that up to 260,000 British nationals living in the EU — many of them pensioners — are expected to return to Britain if there is a no-deal Brexit, placing a huge burden on the NHS and other services:

Boris Johnson’s no-deal war cabinet was told last week that “gaps” would open in the healthcare provided to British citizens living in the other 27 member states in the event of no-deal and that healthcare was the “most immediate risk” facing them.

Ministers have been told that reciprocal healthcare arrangements will cease and “state pensioners” could “become vulnerable” if they could not access treatment in the EU, which is now paid for by the British government. Changes in how expats access healthcare would lead to between 160,000 and 260,000 Britons returning home in the two years after a no-deal Brexit, officials have calculated.

That is between five and nine times the usual annual return rate of 30,000 expats and would force public services to cope with an increase in patients roughly equal to the population of Northampton or Oldham.

They add that the government is seeking to strike a series of bilateral deals with the other member states to recognise the rights of British citizens if there is no deal. But ministers have been warned that several states were refusing to co-operate or even to discuss the technical details of how such side deals might work if the UK crashed out on October 31.

In total, discussions are under way with 16 of the 27 member states. Top of the list of countries refusing to co-operate is France:

Most member states, with the exceptions of Croatia and Romania, have passed legislation to recognise some reciprocal rights for UK nationals. But in most countries the protection is lower than what Britain is offering EU nationals resident in the UK, and far below what expats enjoy at present.

France requires Britons to buy health insurance and show they have sufficient money to support themselves to be granted residency rights. France will also require British expats to register within six months of Brexit day. French citizens in the UK have until June 2021.

In Italy, British expats have to register before October 31 but officials in the Brexit department say many have been unable to secure appointments with the cash-strapped registration authorities.

I don't recall any of this being on the side of Boris Johnson's bus when he was telling us that the health service would be better off outside the EU.
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