12.We received written evidence from several EU nationals living in the UK about their concerns following the referendum vote. We also heard oral evidence from representatives of the 3million, a support network and campaigning group which aims to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and the East European Resource Centre (EERC), an advice and support centre in West London.
13.We heard about a wide range of concerns of EU nationals since the referendum, including stress, and anxiety and feelings of depression to practical concerns about pensions and healthcare, children being abused in the school playground and worries over the ability to work in the UK in the future. Some were concerned about families being split up if one spouse did not meet the criteria for whatever test was applied in the future. Barbara Drozdowicz, Director of the EERC, told us that inquiries to the EERC included very practical questions around residency and naturalisation, work permits and property, and how people will manage the administrative process if they choose to stay in the UK post-Brexit.
14.Anne Laure Donskoy, Co-Chair of the 3million, summarised the situation as follows:
People are worried for their future and for their families. They don’t know what is going to happen. They don’t know what tomorrow is made of.
She added that the
Uncertainty and the ambiguity of messages coming out of Westminster and the sometimes barely veiled threats of deportation in the past few months have not helped.
15.We have received submissions from a number of individuals raising concerns about their current situation and the permanent residency process. One example is of a 75 year old British citizen, who has lived continuously in the UK since 1969 with his wife, a 76 year old German national, who is worried about satisfying the evidential requirements for permanent residency. We also heard from a German academic at University College London, who had been in the UK since 1999 who had married a British citizen and said “that Brexit, and especially the government’s handling of it, has made me feel very unwelcome in this country.”
16.The result of the referendum and subsequent debate in the UK and across the EU have created a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty for EU citizens resident in the UK and for UK citizens in the EU. EU nationals in the UK did not have a vote in the referendum. They came to the UK legally and have contributed to the UK economically and culturally and enriched UK society. The vast majority have worked hard, paid their taxes, integrated, raised families and put down roots. It is difficult to see what more the UK could have asked of them. The result of the referendum, however, has made them very unsure of their future. Although the Government has said it wants EU citizens to be able to remain, the Committee notes that this has not offered sufficient reassurance that the rights and status that they have enjoyed will be guaranteed.
18.Similarly, we took evidence from UK citizens living in Europe about their concerns following the referendum. UK nationals living outside the UK and in the EU did not have a right to vote if they had been living there for more than 15 years. Christopher Chantrey, a UK national resident in France, said
Our main concern is the loss of EU citizenship and the rights devolving from it: the right to remain, healthcare arrangements under the EU social security agreements, and pension entitlements and payments.
19.Gareth Horsfall, a UK national resident in Italy, said he was worried that he and others among the one million UK citizens living across Europe might be forced to return to the UK. He was uncertain what this would mean for his Italian wife and son, and others in similar situations, and did not know whether they would have a right to stay in the UK.
20.We have received numerous submissions from UK nationals resident in many countries across Europe. As a minimum, our witnesses wanted a remedy that guaranteed their right to stay in their chosen country. This right was clearly felt by both sets of migrants to be at risk. The 3million noted that many EU nationals in the UK had been lawfully here for many years but never acquired rights of residence for various reasons. The evidence of UK citizens living in other EU member states also focussed on the right to remain and the right to work. The Brits in Europe organisation told us:
The right to remain is the key question for any economically active British citizen currently living and working in another EU country. This will be the first question for an employed, a self-employed person with their own business or a professional working with their UK qualifications in another EU country.
21.Gareth Horsfall, a financial adviser, told us that the continuing right to have his qualifications recognised in another member state was important—mutual recognition of professions in the EU meant that his UK qualifications are currently recognised in Italy. Qualifications from non-EU states are treated differently. The Brits in Europe evidence pointed out that some professions are covered by rules with automatic recognition: doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, pharmacists, veterinary surgeons and architects. Others, such as teachers, translators and real estate agents are covered by a general system of recognition. Some have a system of recognition depending on professional experience e.g. carpenters. A nurse from the UK can work in another EU country and vice versa without re-qualifying. A British architect can work and set up their own architects’ office without having to re-qualify as a French architect.
22.Healthcare provisions for someone moving to live and work in another EEA country vary. Some are residency-based like the UK; others are insurance-based. The value of being able to access state provided healthcare in the country to which an individual has moved was important to those who gave evidence to us. Mr Horsfall told us that he gained an automatic right to healthcare by virtue of paying social security contributions in Italy, whereas in Germany, individuals required personal insurance to cover their healthcare.
23.Other witnesses referred to the S1 form which entitles the holder to medical treatment in their country of residence on the same terms as nationals of that country and is issued, not exclusively, to those entitled to the state pension. It is not available to all UK citizens resident in the EEA. Debbie Williams said she used the S1 form to receive free healthcare in Belgium. Once a migrant has paid enough into the system of the country where they reside, they can then access the domestic healthcare system without relying on the S1 form. The situation is not uniform across all member states.
24.Sue Wilson, resident in Spain, said she used the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to avoid having to take out medical insurance when travelling to other EU member states. A valid EHIC allows access to state provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another EEA country or in Switzerland. In correspondence, the Department of Health told us:
The Department of Health on behalf of the UK Government reimburses other EEA countries and Switzerland for the cost of providing treatment to people we are responsible for under EU law, irrespective of nationality. In the same way, other EEA countries and Switzerland reimburse the UK for the cost of the NHS providing treatment to people they are responsible for under EU law, including UK nationals insured in another EEA country or Switzerland.
25.Under the current arrangements between EEA countries, if you are a state pensioner of a country, then that country pays for your healthcare regardless of where you live in the EEA. There are currently estimated to be 190,000 recipients of the UK state pension living in the EU, mainly in Spain, France and Ireland and the UK pays for their healthcare.
26.At the moment, free healthcare is available to UK pensioners across the EU under this reciprocal agreement. Sue Wilson, a resident of Spain, said she could access “free healthcare funded by the UK Government” and that “people are very happy with the healthcare they receive in Spain.” She told us there are 108,000 pensioners living in Spain and they are concerned about whether they would be able to afford private healthcare if this right were removed.
27.The situation may be particularly acute for those with pre-existing medical conditions. Some retirees have moved to Spain specifically for the health benefits of living in a warm climate, for example those suffering with arthritis or rheumatism. Some UK nationals are in care homes in other member states where the unit costs to the UK of healthcare are lower. Sue Wilson, Bremain in Spain, said:
If the only alternative for people was to buy private healthcare, rather than have their healthcare funded, for most that would be the difference between whether they stay in Spain or have to come back to the UK.
If large numbers of UK citizens of retirement age return from Spain, this would put additional pressure on the NHS and social care system. It is possible that some of these returning retirees might not be eligible for treatment on the NHS if they are not considered ordinarily resident in the UK.
28.The Department of Health explained how British pensioners in another EU member state receive healthcare:
For UK-insured residents in another member state of retirement age, their healthcare costs are covered by the UK as part of the EU co-ordination rules, subject to following the application process for determining entitlement. If covered, individuals are able to receive healthcare in that member state on the same basis as another resident of that country and the UK reimburses that country for the cost of providing healthcare.
29.Continuing access to healthcare, on the same terms as they can now, is clearly a concern for UK nationals, including those of retirement age, resident in Europe. The Government needs to set out whether it will seek to continue participation in EEA wide schemes that enable UK nationals to receive healthcare in EEA member states.
30.In setting out its negotiating position the Government should seek to ensure that EU nationals already resident in the UK and UK nationals already resident in other EU countries do not lose any of the rights to healthcare they currently hold.
31.A number of questions have been raised about the impact of exiting the EU on the pension rights of UK citizens living in the EU. The UK state pension is uprated on the triple lock—the higher of the rate of inflation, the rate of increase in wages, or 2.5%. This is passed on to British recipients abroad but only in an EEA country or where there is a reciprocal social security agreement. On exiting the EU, the UK would be free to negotiate a reciprocal agreement with the EU. However, the UK state retirement pension is frozen when paid to pensioners in certain countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa as no such agreement has been reached with these countries.
32.Sue Wilson, Chair of Bremain in Spain, was concerned about the possible impact of exiting the EU on pensions. Adding to worries about a reduction in the value of UK pensions (state and private) because of the decrease in sterling’s value against the euro was concern at the possibility of pensions being frozen. Sue Wilson told us that many had moved to Spain with the expectation that their pension would see an annual increase.
33.UK citizens also benefit from the current system if they work in one or more EU country. At present, rules enable the co-ordination of social security entitlement for people moving within the EU. They allow periods of contributions to be aggregated, so that an individual who has worked in other member states can make one application in their country of residence, which then arranges for each state where they were insured to pay a pension. This includes the UK, and allows for a pension built up in one member state to be drawn in another. This does not apply to contributions made by nationals of non-EU countries. Gareth Horsfall explained the situation in Italy:
If I were a non-EU member, I would have to contribute at least 10 years’ contributions to the national insurance equivalent in Italy, otherwise I would not be entitled to anything. Under the EU system, I only need to be in one EU member state for one year, and then I qualify under the aggregate system. If I moved to Italy for eight or nine years and then left having made social security contributions, as a non-EU citizen, I would be entitled [to] nothing at the end of the day.
The International Consortium of British Pensioners told us that free movement throughout the EU has meant a “significant number of people” have acquired state pension rights in more than one country, and if there was “nothing specifically in the Brexit negotiations to cover this, then it is a distinct possibility that the UK National Insurance contribution record will not be consolidated with the other periods worked in the EU.”
34.The Government should seek the continuation of existing reciprocal arrangements for pension uprating for UK citizens living in other EU member states and for EU citizens living in the UK. The Government also needs to clarify whether it will seek to continue to cooperate on EU-wide mechanisms to enable pension contributions in different member states to be aggregated.
23 Qq 600–601
29 For example, Brits in Europe (OBJ0089, OBJ0136) Expat Citizen Rights in EU (OBJ0091), Ann Rattle (OBJ0121), Fair Deal for Expats (OBJ0141)
31 The 3million (OBJ0135)
32 Brits in Europe (OBJ0089)
34 Brits in Europe (OBJ0089)
35 Correspondence from Lord O’Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, to Hilary Benn MP, Chair of the Committee on Exiting the European Union, 17 February 2017
38 Brits in Europe (OBJ0147)
42 Public Accounts Committee, Thirty-seventh Report of Session 2016–17, , HC 771
43 Q655, Q663
47 Bremain in Spain (OBJ0117), Q671
48 Oral evidence before the Health Committee, 21 February 2017, Q145 [Professor Jean McHale, University of Birmingham]
49 House of Commons Library SN01457
50 International Consortium of British Pensioners (OBJ0126)
51 Q655, Q663. See also Eamonn Phillipson, (OBJ0158)
52 The rules also apply to EEA countries and Switzerland.
55 International Consortium of British Pensioners (OBJ0126)
3 March 2017