The UK Government today sought to reassure the estimated 1.2 million British expats currently living in Europe by stating that it plans to continue to ‘uprate’ their UK State Pensions, and that it will seek to ensure that such other benefits they currently enjoy as their ability to obtain free healthcare from the national health services in the countries in which they now live will also continue – on grounds that the UK will continue to offer such benefits to EU citizens living in Britain.
The Government set out its priorities in these areas of particular interest to expats in an 8,350-word summary of its proposals, which may be viewed on the UK Government’s website by clicking here.
In its statement, the Government begins by saying that it would undertake “to treat EU citizens in the UK according to the principles below, in the expectation that the EU will offer reciprocal treatment for UK nationals resident in its member states”.
It then proceeds to detail how it plans to do this, in relation to benefits, pensions, healthcare, economic “and other rights”, based on, for example, the length of time individual EU citizens have been living in the UK, and other variables.
“The UK will continue to export and up-rate the UK State Pension within the EU; the UK will continue to aggregate periods of relevant insurance, work or residence within the EU accrued before exit to help meet the entitlement conditions for UK contributory benefits and state pension, even where entitlement to these rights may be exercised after it exit,” the document states at one point.
It goes on later to say: “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 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;
“[and] the UK will ensure qualifying EU citizens who arrived in the UK before the specified date will continue to be eligible for Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) student loans and ‘home fee’ status in line with persons with settled status in the UK3.
“Such persons will also be eligible to apply for maintenance support on the same basis they do now.”
The Government’s lengthy statement on the subject of UK State Pensions, healthcare and other expat concerns comes as UK expatriates continue to worry, and express their concerns publicly, about what is to become of them once the UK leaves the European Union, which it has been in the process of doing ever since last year’s referendum.
Experts noted that today’s statement doesn’t necessarily mean that British expats need no longer be concerned, only that the UK government is aware of their concerns, and that it has now vowed to keep in place its existing deal for EU expats living in Britain, in the hope that this will mean the EU will reciprocate with respect to all of its British expats.
That the UK plans has said it plans to continue to up-rate pensions will, though, be a relief to many, as this is not done in many countries popular with Britons, such as Canada and Australia, and there were fears that the government might seek to save some money by beginning to also “freeze” the pensions of expats living in Europe.
Meantime, media reports late on Monday quoted UK business groups as critical of the new Government proposals, saying that they lacked the clarity UK employers needed, and would likely lead to a major increase in the administrative burden currently borne by UK companies and individuals.