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BREXIT

Pensions and healthcare: UK offers assurances to Brits in EU over no-deal Brexit

The British government spelled out on Thursday what it would do to protect the rights of British citizens living in the EU in the event that the UK crashed out of the union without a deal, including those who were forced to return home.

Pensions and healthcare: UK offers assurances to Brits in EU over no-deal Brexit
Photo: AFP

The policy paper spells out some of the measures that would be taken to protect the citizens' rights of EU nationals living in Britain and those of Britons living throughout the EU if there was a no-deal Brexit.

However the government insists that the only way the rights of Britons can really be protected is if the deal is ratified.

“The Withdrawal Agreement is the only way the UK government can guarantee the rights of the one million UK nationals living in the EU,” says the document.

The British government has called on EU member states to uphold their commitments to protect the rights of Britons living in their countries, whom they want to be able to stay and enjoy the same rights and protections as when Britain was part of the EU.

But the government accepts that depends on London acting first.

“That is why the UK has taken steps to remove any ambiguity and provide complete reassurance for EU citizens in the UK. We ask that the EU and Member States do the same for our nationals,” reads the policy paper.

“We have always been clear that we highly value the contributions EU citizens make to the social, economic and cultural fabric of the UK and that we want them to stay in the UK.

“To remove any ambiguity, the UK Government guarantees that EU citizens resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able to stay and we will take the necessary steps to protect their rights even in a unlikely ‘no deal’ scenario.”

This should be positive news for Britons living in the EU. For example the French government has stated it will protect the rights of Britons in France based on what is in the withdrawal agreement, but only if London acted and gave guarantees to French nationals in London.

Kalba Meadows from British in Europe and Reman in Farnce Together Campaign groups told The Local: “We very much hope that this confirmation that the UK intends to effectively honour the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement if there's no deal will be enough for France to go ahead and do the same.”

Pensions and healthcare

The paper contains some pledges that will be important to Britons living throughout the EU, notably those who are retired.

“Where it is in our control, the UK will also continue to preserve certain rights of UK nationals in the EU, for example by continuing to pay an uprated UK state pension to eligible UK nationals living in the EU.”

And if British nationals found they could no longer continue their lives in the EU and were forced to return home then the government said it would “consider” rather than guarantee certain measures.

On the subject of health and voting the government said: “We understand that access to healthcare is vital and can confirm that UK nationals who returned to the UK permanently in a ‘no deal’ scenario would have access to NHS-funded healthcare on the same basis as UK nationals already living here. They would also be able to register to vote in local and national elections.

And on the issue of returning with family members who are not British nationals:

“We understand the right to bring EU and non-EU citizen family members is an important concern. The Government is considering the support that could be offered and will set out further details in due course,” reads the paper.

And if people have to return to the UK?

And when it comes to accessing vital benefits and housing, the government says it is considering how best to act to support returning UK nationals.

“We recognise that an issue raised by UK nationals is their ability to access to benefits and housing quickly on return to the UK. Arrangements will be made to ensure continuity of payments for those who return and are already in receipt of UK state pension or other UK benefits while living in the EU.

“We are considering how support could be offered to returning UK nationals where new claims are made and will set out further details in due course. UK nationals will continue to be able to access education in the UK,” the paper says. 

British in Europe's Kalba Meadows said: “A lot of people have asked us what would happen if they felt they had to return to the UK after Brexit. So it's reassuring to read that the UK would ensure immediate access to health care and benefits, as that's been a huge concern.”

Reciprocal agreements need to be made

But the British government accepts that in the case of no deal, much depends on reciprocal agreements so no matter what London offers to EU citizens, Brits in the EU still need their adopted countries to agree to put the same measures in place especially when it comes to healthcare and benefits.

“Aspects of the reciprocal healthcare and social security coordination section of the Withdrawal Agreement require reciprocity from the EU or individual Member States and cannot be protected unilaterally,” the document said.

“We are exploring options to protect past social security contributions, made in the EU and the UK, and reciprocal healthcare arrangements in the unlikely event of a 'no deal' scenario. We are in the early stages of discussions and will announce further details of such options prior to our exit to allow citizens to make appropriate arrangements.”

Meadows said: “This should reassure a lot of British pensioners living in France as well as those who've worked both in France and the UK and whose contributions would be aggregated.”

The UK wants is citizens to be able to carry on standing and voting in local elections in the countries where they live and so says it will guarantee that EU nationals will be able to vote in local elections in the UK.

One line in the policy paper that did anger campaigners was the government's claim that they have “engaged extensively with UK nationals in the EU over the last two years.”

British in Europe's Kalba Meadows said: “Although we have met with officials at Department for Exiting the EU, we at British in Europe have been trying continuously to meet with the Secretary of State for that department and have never had been invited to do so.

“We've also requested meetings with Theresa May on several occasions and our requests have simply not been acted on. We would very much like to have had the opportunity to present the concerns of the 1.2 million Brits in the EU to both of these directly – and indeed we still would.”

You can read the full policy paper by clicking here.

 

 

Member comments

  1. No deal is the default position, and the only one with Royal Assent. What is bad is that Theresa May has not made proper provision for it and wasted over 30 months chasing pie-in-the-sky ‘deals’ of her own design, to suit Brussels and against the wishes of the UK voters. If she fails to convince Parliament of her unrealistic wishes, the UK will leave the EU in March 2019 poorly prepared.

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BREXIT

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

With ongoing uncertainty over whether UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in Italy beyond the end of this year, British residents are asking where they stand.

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

Many of The Local’s British readers have been in touch recently to ask whether any progress has been made in negotiations between the UK and Italy on a reciprocal agreement on the use of driving licences.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence.

READ ALSO: Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

When Britain left the EU there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This period was later extended to the current deadline of December 31st, 2022.

The situation beyond that date however remains unclear, and concern is growing among the sizeable number of British nationals living in Italy who say no longer being allowed to drive would be a serious problem.

There was the option of exchanging licences before the end of 2021, but many didn’t make the deadline. As has been proven before, this was often not due to slackness but rather all manner of circumstances, from having moved to Italy after or shortly before the cut-off date to bureaucratic delays.

Driving licences: How does the situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

So is an agreement any closer? Or do those driving in Italy on a UK licence really need to go to the considerable trouble and expense of sitting an Italian driving test (in Italian)?

With five months left to go, there’s still no indication as to whether a decision will be made either way.

The British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test – while also stressing that they’re working hard on reaching a deal, which would make taking the test unnecessary.

This message has not changed.

On Wednesday, July 27th, British Ambassador to Italy Ed Llewellyn tweeted after a meeting with Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini: “The British and Italian governments continue to work towards an agreement on exchange of driving licences.”

But the ambassador earlier this month advised UK nationals “not to wait” and to “take action now by applying for an Italian licence”.

In an official newsletter published in mid-July, Llewellyn acknowledged the concerns of British residents and confirmed that negotiations are still going on.

“I know that many of you are understandably concerned about whether your UK driving licence will continue to be recognised in Italy, especially when the extension granted by Italy until 31 December 2022 for such recognition expires.

“Let me set out where things stand. The British Government is working to reach an agreement with Italy on the right to exchange a licence without the need for a test. 

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

“The discussions with our Italian colleagues are continuing and our objective is to try to reach an agreement in good time before the end of the year.

“We hope it will be possible to reach an agreement – that is our objective and we are working hard to try to deliver it. 

Nevertheless, he said, “our advice is not to wait to exchange your licence.”

“If you need to drive in Italy, you can take action now by applying for an Italian licence. This will, however, involve taking a practical and theory test.” 

He acknowledged that “the process is not a straightforward one and that there are delays in some areas to book an appointment for a test”.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

“We will continue to work towards an agreement,” he wrote. “That is our objective and it is an objective we share with our Italian colleagues.“

The British Embassy in Rome had not responded to The Local’s requests for further comment on Friday.

The Local will continue to publish any news on the recognition of British driving licences in Italy. See the latest updates in our Brexit-related news section here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

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