Britons who have retired to EU countries will no longer be guaranteed increases in their state pension three years after Brexit, according to the UK government.
The Department for Work and Pensions announced it had committed to increase the pension benefit paid to those living in the EU each year until March 2023, according to the triple lock rules.
Experts accused officials of stepping back from "repeated assurances" that the state pensions of retired British citizens in the EU would continue to grow regardless of Brexit after 2023.
If the UK leaves the EU on bad terms with the rest of the Europe there is no guarantee that a new uprating arrangement will be reached, and today’s statement offers no assurance to pensioners that annual increases will continue after that point"
The move, which would affect current pensioners and people who planned to retire in EU countries, opened the threat of removing automatic increases that expat pensioners receive as a result of Britain's EU membership. It would leave them on a par with these who retire to Australia, Canada or New Zealand, for example, where UK pension payments are frozen.
Under the triple lock system, the state pension increases each year in line with whichever is the highest: consumer price inflation, average earnings growth or 2.5%.
Royal London director of policy Steve Webb said that it was widely assumed state pension uprating in the EU would continue indefinitely after Brexit, but with no guarantee of annual increases without an agreement pensioners could see a significant hit to their standard of living over a 20-30 year retirement.
Webb said: "This attempt to reassure British pensioners living in the EU will actually have the opposite effect. They have received repeated assurances that their pensions would be increased each year regardless of the outcome of the Brexit process. Today's announcement of a time-limited guarantee will be deeply worrying to British ex-pats living in the EU.
"If the UK leaves the EU on bad terms with the rest of the Europe there is no guarantee that a new uprating arrangement will be reached, and today's statement offers no assurance to pensioners that annual increases will continue after that point."
According to data from the Office for National Statistics, there are currently 900,000 Brits living abroad in the EU. Of this, 220,000 are aged 65 or more.
The DWP has established a new dedicated call centre team based in Newcastle to answer any questions from those affected.
Amber Rudd, the secretary of state for Work and Pensions, said the government was working hard to prepare for leaving the EU on October 31, whether that was with a deal or without one.
She said: "We will be fully ready for Brexit, and are leaving in a way that protects the interests of citizens here and in EU member states.
"This guarantee will provide reassurance to the hundreds of thousands of people living in the EU who receive a UK state pension that their pensions will continue to rise significantly each year, however we leave."
About 500,000 British pensioners live in 120 "frozen" countries — many of them former Commonwealth nations — whose state pension remains the same amount that they received on the day they left the UK.
The new state pension for those who retired after 6 April 2016 is £168.60 a week, or £8,767.20 a year.
Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said: "A No Deal Brexit creates troubling financial uncertainty for UK expats who have pursued their dream by retiring to EU countries such as Spain or France.
"At the moment the UK's membership of the EU means people moving to Europe automatically benefit from state pension uprating in line with the hugely valuable triple-lock.
"To give you an idea of its value, over a 20 year retirement someone could lose out on around £50,000 in retirement income if their state pension was frozen at 2019/20 levels*.
"While this isn't cause for panic, those affected shouldn't stick their heads in the sand either. Anyone who is currently retired on the continent, or is considering doing so in the coming years, should factor in the possible loss of state pension uprating into their income planning."