Posted on 27/06/2017 by
The British government has announced it will maintain reciprocal healthcare rights and the 'triple lock' on pensions for the 1.2 million UK citizens currently living in the EU.
A 15-page policy paper published by the UK government on Monday guarantees the existing healthcare arrangements with the EU.
This means that British citizens living in the European Economic Area (EEA), made up of EU member states, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, have the right to go to any member state and receive public healthcare which is then claimed back from the UK government.
Currently, the UK gives about £500m (€575bn, $641m) a year to EU countries that care for the 190,000 Brits who have retired abroad.
“The UK will seek to protect the healthcare arrangements currently set out in EU Social Security Coordination Regulations and domestic UK law for EU citizens who arrive in the UK before the specified date and for UK nationals living in the EU before the specified date," the document states.
“The UK will also seek to protect the ability of individuals who are eligible for a UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before the specified date to continue to benefit from free, or reduced cost, needs-arising healthcare while on a temporary stay in the EU.
"The UK will seek an ongoing arrangement akin to the EHIC scheme as part of negotiations on our future arrangements with the EU,” the paper states.
Pension triple lock
The document also guarantees the triple lock on pensions for the 472,000 UK citizens retired in the EU.
The triple lock ensures UK state pension incomes go up at the rate of inflation, earnings or 2.5%, whichever is higher.
“The UK will continue to export and uprate the UK State Pension within the EU,” said the government.
Under the current system, Britons retiring to a country within the EEA received annual increases to their pensions to match the triple lock commitment but there had been concern that it would end with Brexit and pension would be frozen.
The new minority government of Theresa May has also reached a deal the northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to keep the triple lock for domestic state pensioners in order to ensure its survival in Parliament.
Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon said: “News that the state pension triple lock will remain until 2022 will be welcomed by those who feared replacing it with a double-lock without the 2.5% underpin would mean pensioners lost out.
"But in practice, if as many expect inflation remains above 2.5% in the coming years, it will actually may make no difference whatsoever," he said.
EU citizens in the UK
In addition prime minister May is proposing a new “light touch” online system to process applications by EU citizens that will give applicants the same “indefinite leave to remain” status as many non-European nationals who have also lived in Britain for five years.
EU citizens resident in Britain will have to apply for a “settled status” identity card after Brexit under Home Office proposals on their future rights.
Both the UK and the EU have said they want an early agreement on the rights of citizens, which would give certainty to the 1.2 million British expats living on the continent after the UK leaves the bloc on 29 March 2019.
Expats will welcome the government’s offer on two contentious issues – the state pension and reciprocal healthcare rights.
May's initial attempts to secure the rights of UK citizens abroad in opening Brexit negotiations as “bizarre” for failing to acknowledge the EU’s offer of a lifetime guarantee for all their current rights.
Last week, the prime minister made, what she termed as, a “fair and serious offer” to European Union leaders over the future rights of EU citizens in the UK, offering those who arrive lawfully before Brexit the chance to build up the same rights to work, healthcare and benefits as UK citizens.
However, British expats groups said the offer falls short of the deal published by the EU on 12 June, which promised to a lifetime guarantee of all their current rights for all UK citizens living in the bloc.
‘Lowest possible price’ Dave Spokes, a spokesman for the group Expat Citizen Rights in EU, which represents Brits living in France, told The Guardian: “We find it bizarre that she expects the EU to reciprocate to her offer, which falls short of their own. Does she expect the EU to water down its offer to match hers? “This is not a negotiation to get the lowest possible price. It is, or should be, a negotiation to gain the best support for real people – a country’s citizens. “We are not surprised that Mr Juncker has described Theresa May’s offer on citizens rights as ‘not sufficient’,” he added.