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Healthcare free for EU expats, costly for UK expats

Healthcare free for EU expats, costly for UK expats

Brexit negotiations have been underway for some time now and the topic has become a permanent feature of the news.

While the latest news is constantly changing – some days negotiations are going well, other days negotiations are going nowhere – recent updates have revealed that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will likely mean that UK expats in Europe will have to pay for their healthcare, whereas EU expats in the UK will receive their healthcare free of charge, covered by the NHS.

So, what is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit? Essentially, a ‘no-deal’ Brexit means that there would be no formal agreement made between the UK and the EU before the March 2019 deadline. Of course, in the long term, it’s unrealistic to think that there will be no deals made at all. For the pragmatic purposes of trade, safety/security, and research, some deals will have to be made at some point in the future. However, for the near future, a no-deal Brexit is a real possibility.

Last week, Cambridge Professor of European Union Law Catherine Barnard informed the House of Lords that British expats in Europe would suffer if a ‘no-deal’ Brexit occurs. She urged them that the withdrawal bill contains a fail-safe which will protect British expats’ free/subsidised access to healthcare.

Currently, EU citizens are eligible for free healthcare within EU member states so long as they have their EHIC (European Health Insurance Card). So, until March 2019, UK citizens in the EU have access to free healthcare, and vice versa. While the latter will remain the case, the former is at risk of changing if a ‘no-deal’ Brexit goes ahead. So get all of your sicknesses out of the way before March 2019!

The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Davis, is trying to ensure the EU continue the arrangement after Brexit, stating that, even if the EU reject the proposal, the UK government is prepared to pay the approximately £155 million-per-year bill. This bill would cover both holidaymakers and residents alike, and everything from GP visits and prescriptions to hospitalisation and surgery.

As it stands, there are roughly 1.2 million British expats living in the EU. A large portion of these, some 340,000, are pensioners and have existing and ongoing health conditions that need to be cared for. In Spain alone, there are 121,000 older British people living there – the ‘no-deal’ outcome as threatened by Professor Barnard will be a huge blow to these folks.

One thing to bear in mind is that all this is speculation at the moment – there are many negotiations to come between the UK and the EU until March 2019 and lots can change in that time.

Whatever happens, you can rest assured that we’ll keep you informed of the big Brexit stories, especially those with an impact on finance and currency.


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