Lords highlight potential healthcare and pensions “lottery” for UK citizens living in the EU after Brexit
The House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee have written to the Government, raising concerns over the rights of UK citizens living in the EU after Brexit.
Last week, the Committee heard from a representative of British in Europe, and a lawyer specialising in EU law and citizenship, that the 1.3m UK citizens currently living in EU risk losing access to healthcare, welfare benefits and pensions entitlements, amongst other things, despite the fact that access to these benefits seemed certain when they first moved to the EU. The Committee has also been contacted by a number of individuals who are deeply concerned about what will happen to them and their families after Brexit.
Given that Brexit Secretary Rt Hon Stephen Barclay MP declined the Committee's invitation to give evidence to them, members have now written to the responsible Minister, James Duddridge MP, to outline their concerns.
In the letter, the Committee ask the Minister to commit to:
- An indefinite right for UK citizens and their families to return to the UK in future;
- Continued funding for healthcare until any post-Brexit agreement is reached; and
- Uprating the pensions of UK nationals living in the EU for as long as they continue to live there.
Members also raise concerns about the impact on individuals and businesses if people are unable to aggregate social security contributions they may make in a number of different EU countries and call for the current arrangements for student fees and finance to apply to all children born before the Brexit referendum.
Chair of the Committee, Lord Morris of Aberavon, said: “UK citizens moved to other EU Member States with the very reasonable belief that the UK's membership of the EU would mean they could continue to access healthcare, receive an uprated UK State Pension, work and travel freely. They could not possibly have predicted that the UK would vote to leave the EU and that their rights to access these benefits would consequently be under threat. ‘Citizens rights' may sound theoretical, but for the individuals involved it means a very real threat to their livelihoods: people are extremely worried that they will be unable to meet medical bills and other expenses if they stay, but that property prices and other variables would mean they could not afford to move back to the UK even if they wanted to.
“We understand that there is a limit to what the UK Government can do; if the UK leaves the EU then, of course, UK citizens are no longer entitled to the benefits of EU membership. But there are steps the Government can take to mitigate the impact on those UK citizens who find themselves in this unfortunate position. The post-Brexit arrangements that have been put in place vary significantly from country to country, and we are also seeking reassurance that the UK Government is making every effort to work with individual Member States so that UK citizens can continue to access vital services and support and that individuals are kept informed of any steps they need to take to secure their rights.”
Read the letter in full here.