Britons in Europe express anger over UK government’s Brexit healthcare offer

The British government's offer to cover the health costs of UK pensioners in Europe was meant to provide reassurance to elderly British citizens. The time-limited offer has been met with scorn however by rights groups that represent British nationals in the EU.

Britons in Europe express anger over UK government's Brexit healthcare offer
Photo: egal/Depositphotos

The offer of a 12-month assurance of health cover in the event of a no-deal Brexit  for UK retirees in the EU was met with scorn and derision by representatives of rights group British in Europe.

“It is shameful that people who have contributed all their lives to the National Health Insurance scheme are suddenly stripped of their rights. They have just as much right to expect the same healthcare as anyone living in the UK”, said Delia Dumaresq, a committee member of British in Italy which is part of the umbrella group British in Europe.

“They came to live in the EU, relying on the fact that they could face old age without having to worry about medical bills. Being abandoned by the British government like this has been their worst Brexit nightmare,” added Dumaresq. 

The UK government's offer was designed to compensate for the loss of S1 reciprocal agreements, whereby the UK's National Health System paid EU member states to provide healthcare to EU-based UK nationals.

The UK is seeking to extend the current reciprocal health agreements until the end of 2020 but if the EU doesn't agree then London has offered to fund the healthcare for pensioners for 12 months.

But that depends on EU states agreeing to treat British citizens and then be reimbursed.

Some UK nationals in the EU who have pre-existing conditions could have to pay more than €15,000 per year to obtain a private health insurance that would provide similar healthcare to the currently-active S1 European health scheme. Some Britons in Europe expressed fears that they would struggle to obtain private health insurance.

British in Europe argues that the offer will only help patients who have existing conditions such as cancer or kidney in the short term. failure to continue to obtain medical treatment for at least another year, regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU on March 29th, as currently scheduled, or at a later date if the EU grants a Brexit delay. 

Dumaresq says the offer of health cover for 12 months will not reassure UK retirees who live in the EU and have existing health conditions. “What happens to them when the year is over? People’s lives are literally at stake,” Dumaresq said in the statement. 

On Wednesday Theresa May's government asked the EU to grant a three month extension in order for her to secure a deal, asking for an extension to Article 50 (the period between officially asking to leave and becoming a non-EU state) until June 30th. Article 50 is set to expire at 11pm GMT on March 29th.

The UK government's move is designed to assuage fears but British in Europe says it could be derailed by administration. 
“What is to happen in those countries where the possession of an S1 certificate, which until now entitled them to healthcare and will no longer be valid, is essential for enrollment in their health service?
“And how on earth is this ill-defined scheme to be understood by hard-pressed administrators in surgeries and hospitals over 27 different countries?  And if they do not know how to administer it, is there not a massive risk that they will either refuse treatment or insist that the patient pays?” asks British in Italy. 

Member comments

  1. One of the reasons I paid national insurance was that apart from being forced to it was a guarantee of health care and old age pension that was part of the enforced contract I entered into. I came to live in France having fully paid up my National Insurance contributions being assured of the reciprocal arrangements with France. I may live in France but I am still a British Citizen and having spent my whole working life contributing to Britain I expect to be reciprocally looked after in my old age. I’m happy to live here and I can’t really afford to move back without a considerable drop in living standards
    One year health cover? It’s a pathetic offer and an outrage to citizenship. What can they be thinking of?

  2. I agree. We researched the in’s and out’s of where we should retire to within the EU, before moving to France 9yrs. ago, precisely because it had reciprocal arrangement with the UK, which would ensure our healthcare and pensions would be safe-guarded. 6yrs. after our move, Brexit happens and now, with serious health issues, and having had our Rights swept under the carpet in such an unfeeling and cavalier manner, we are being left to hang out and dry. How can retirees and young families, unless employed by large multinational companies, possibly afford 12,000Euros, EACH for healthcare every year? It seems politicians are looking after EU people in the UK, but their own citizens, living in the EU, come a very poor second. We are being stripped of our future. Those in the ERG and the like are very well insulated from the effects of Brexit and can stand on their principles, lucky them. Unfortunately, most of we retired and younger working families do not have that luxury. We are pensioners, having paid our NI or AVCs for a tranquile retirement. These last 3yrs. have been a nightmare and caused nothing but anxiety and illness. I voted remain, but unless the dreadful Brexit deal is done, we will be up a creek without a paddle, and likely to drown in debt, despite having saved all our lives for a comfortable debt-free retirement, this could very soon count for nothing.

  3. And to rub salt in the wounds, many of us have been disenfranchised thanks to the 15-year rule so can’t even vote to complain.
    As with @Nick-nack and @TrishH above, the UK government’s attitude towards and treatment of expats who have paid their taxes all their lives and have done nothing wrong by moving here for their retirement, is, quite frankly, disgusting and inhumane!

  4. Without S1 medical cover one cannot apply for Carte Sejour (residents permit) Consequently, unless someone states to the contrary, hundreds of thousands of Brits in France/EU will, in effect, be illegal immigrants and risk deportation! Its as serious as it can be.

  5. Listen up: Theresa May and all her other deranged/incompetent Tory conspirators, were very likely all “signed up” and “paid off” by the sicko corps of Libertarian billionaires (American, Brits AND Russians) who want to wreck the EU and the UK, so as to have “delicious” “investment opportunities” to pick up from that wreckage. No one could be as stunningly incompetent as May & company . . . I am now SURE that from day one, they were aiming for exactly the train-wreck OF a Hard Brexit. I am SO sorry for Britain and Britons everywhere.

  6. My wife and I fall right into this healthcare/finance elephant trap.
    I’m going to suggest the UK government (and by proxy the healthcare system) is in breach of contract and will be liable for theft under criminal law.

    My logic: Tax evasion is a crime. We have committed no crime; the UK government has collected money, from us all, under compulsory taxation throughout our working lives.
    This money is specifically ring-fenced to cover our pensions and healthcare.
    The state is not licensed to steal our money.
    The state must be legally compelled to honour it’s contract to fund our pensions and healthcare or answer to the courts.
    Any lawyers out there looking for a case?

  7. Surely this means that the UK expects to finalise health agreements for its citizens living in the EU after Brexit within the next 12 months, and likewise for EU citizens resident in the UK. One must not forget that the latter are just as concerned as we are over this matter.

  8. The National Health Service states that its use is for UK residents. That means that anyone resident in the UK is entitled to free health treatment. In addition visitors to the UK who suddenly become ill or have an accident are also covered (This is not limited to EU nationals). There is a general unwillingness by Doctors or hospitals in the UK to act as accountants, so it appears that the Brits in Europe will be the main losers.

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France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Visits to the Channel islands from France have halved since Brexit, and French local authorities say they may be forced to cut the regular ferry service, asking for the passport requirement to be waived for French visitors.

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Travel to and from the Channel islands – which are British crown dependancies – has reduced significantly since Brexit, when passports became a requirement for those travelling in and out of the islands and their ports.

Now the president of the local authorities in the Manche département of France has asked that passport requirements be lifted, with hopes of increasing travel to and from the islands.

Jean Morin told Ouest France that there has been a “considerable reduction in the number of passengers on routes between the Channel ports and the islands” and as a result the ferry service between France and the islands was seriously in deficit.

“On these lines, we will never make money, but we cannot be in deficit”, explained the Morin. 

He added that if a solution is not found by the deadline of May 1st, 2023, then local authorities will stop funding the shipping company DNO, which runs the Manche Îles Express ferry service.

“If the passport requirement is not lifted by then, we will have no choice but not to renew the service contract for 2024-2025”, Morin told Ouest France.

Only around half of French people have a passport, since the ID card issued to all adults is sufficient to travel within the EU. 

READ MORE: Ask the Expert: How Brexit has changed the rules on pensions, investments and bank accounts for Brits in France

DNO re-launched operations in April and since then, the company, and by extension the département – who plays a large role in funding it via a public service delegation – has been losing significant funds.

According to Franceinfo, the number of passengers has been cut in half since passport requirements were introduced. Franceinfo estimates that for one ticket for one passenger costing €30, the département spends €200.

According to Morin, the ideal solution would be to require a simple ID for tourists seeking to take just day-long or weekend-long stays on the islands – which reportedly represents at least 90 percent of the boats’ usual passengers.

“The Jersey government is working hard on the issue and is waiting for an agreement from London and the European Union. There is the possibility that things could move quickly”, Morin told Franceinfo on Tuesday.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, boats going to and from the French mainland carried at least 110,000 people per year. In 2022, only 40,000 passengers made the journey, Olivier Normand, the sales manager of Manche Îles Express, told Actu France.

Normand had expected the decline, however. He told Actu France that the company had taken a survey, which found that almost half (between 40 and 50 percent) of their clientele did not have a passport.