No-deal Brexit: Brits in France warned over healthcare restrictions when returning to UK

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No-deal Brexit: Brits in France warned over healthcare restrictions when returning to UK
British people living in France may not be entitled to NHS care in the UK. Photo: AFP

British people living in France are being urged to prepare for the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit and that includes the likelihood that they may no longer qualify for treatment on the NHS if they fall ill or have an accident while visiting the UK after Britain leaves the EU.


In the case of a no-deal Brexit there will be many changes to healthcare systems and one of them concerns the rights of British people living in the EU, accessing the NHS when returning home.

British people who live in France will naturally usually use the French healthcare system for most things.

But what happens if you fall ill while visiting friends or relatives back in the UK or you need treatment for an existing condition?

Up until now treatment on the NHS for Brits visiting the UK has been covered by European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC).


The carte vitale entitles you to healthcare in France, but will not extend to the UK. Photo: AFP

If Britain leaves with a deal then current rights on health cover, including the use of the European Health Insurance Cards  will continue until the end of the transition period. What happens to the EHIC in the future will be decided as part of the negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship.

But under a no-deal Brexit?

The British government recently updated its advice which says that in the case of a no-deal Brexit: "You should not expect to be able to use NHS services for free when visiting the UK if you are living in France and are not currently eligible for a UK-issued S1 form (which covers British pensioners) or EHIC."

In the case of a no-deal Brexit, the British government says that pensioners in France covered by the S1 system - which the British government is paying for - will be entitled to use the NHS for free when they are visiting the UK.

But British people who are registered in the French health system and rely on their EHIC card when they return to the UK will not be protected

Students in France, who until now have generally relied on the EHIC card - are also being warned that this will cease to operate after Brexit.

Hence the warning to take out travel insurance if you are heading "home".

The UK government says: "You should take out appropriate travel insurance when visiting the UK, as you would when visiting any other country.

"If you return to the UK permanently and meet the ordinarily resident test you will be able to access NHS care without charge."

Justine Wallington, from citizens advice group Remain in France Together, who have been warning Britons to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, told The Local: "Imagine a person with various pre-existing conditions - imagine the high cost of getting insurance cover!

"They may have even paid National Insurance contributions in the past but could find themselves unable to afford the premium for a UK visit."

RIFT's official advice is: "If you have a French-issued CEAM (France's equivalent of the EHIC) because France is your competent state, from Brexit day you won't be covered while in the UK so you'll need to make sure that you take out health insurance to cover emergency health care."

The British government has said it is keen for the EHIC system to continue under a no-deal Brexit and suggests France has blocked the idea.

"The UK has offered to maintain the EHIC scheme if there’s no deal, but this would be reliant on France continuing to accept UK EHICs. The French Government has indicated that your EHIC will no longer be valid if there’s no deal," the government website says.

After Brexit it is widely expected that Britain will come to a bilateral agreements with countries like France and Spain, where many British people live, but this would need to be agreed between the two countries after Brexit day.

There is also confusion over whether old reciprocal agreements between states would automatically come into force in the event of a no-deal or whether they would be subject to new agreement between the UK and EU member states.


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