On Tuesday 3 July, the House of Lords will debate the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee's report on Brexit: reciprocal healthcare.
The United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union could have a significant impact on the UK’s access to EU reciprocal healthcare arrangements. These arrangements support the free movement of people by eliminating the financial or bureaucratic barriers that millions of citizens, whether UK nationals resident in the EU or those from the EU resident in Britain, would otherwise face in accessing treatment. Reciprocal healthcare arrangements also play a vital role in allowing people with disabilities or long-term health conditions, the elderly, and children with healthcare needs, to travel abroad and avoid prohibitively expensive insurance costs.
The debate follows the publication of a report by the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee that assesses the feasibility of the Government’s ambition to continue after Brexit the level of access provided by the current reciprocal healthcare arrangements.
The Committee's main conclusions included:
- In the absence of an agreement on future relations that covers reciprocal healthcare, the rights currently enjoyed by 27 million UK citizens, thanks to the EHIC, will cease after Brexit. Other rights, provided for by the S2 scheme and Patients' Rights Directive, will also come to an end.
- Reciprocal healthcare arrangements post-Brexit will only be achieved by agreement between the UK and the EU. The Government has not yet set out its objectives for the future UK-EU relationship. We therefore urge the Government to confirm how it will seek to protect reciprocal rights to healthcare of all UK and EU citizens post-Brexit, as part of any agreement on future relations.
- It is essential that, as well as having a continuing right to access long term healthcare, EU citizens lawfully resident in the UK should be provided with a practical means by which to exercise that right. We call on the Government to use domestic legislation to clarify the means by which all EU citizens lawfully resident in the UK at the time of Brexit will be able to continue to access essential healthcare.
- We welcome the assurances contained in the Joint Report about the importance of maintaining freedom of movement under the Common Travel Area and cooperation under the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Regardless of the other arguments against a hard border, any such barrier would be highly detrimental to healthcare for patients on both sides of the border, including children and other vulnerable patients.
Speakers in the Debate
Lord Jay of Ewelme, Chairman of the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee, will open the debate on the report Brexit: reciprocal healthcare.
Lord O'Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department of Health and Social Care), will respond on behalf of the Government.
Other members of the House of Lords who are due to speak in the debate can be viewed on the Speakers' List.