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BREXIT

‘A massive betrayal’: UK’s no-deal Brexit healthcare pledge for pensioners in EU sparks anger

Campaigners for British people living in the EU accused the UK government of a massive betrayal on Monday after it was announced the health costs of pensioners would only be covered for six months in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

'A massive betrayal': UK's no-deal Brexit healthcare pledge for pensioners in EU sparks anger
Photo: AFP

Britain's health secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday that health costs for UK pensioners living in the EU and those with disabilities would be covered for six months if Britain leaves the bloc on October 31st without a deal.

That would see 180,000 UK citizens living in the EU, continue to have their healthcare paid for by the UK under the S1 scheme for six months after Brexit. 

That's six months less than a UK government pledge made in March to cover healthcare costs for on year in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Tourists who begin their trips to the EU before Brexit and students who begin their courses before October will also have their health costs covered under a no-deal Brexit.

But while health secretary Hancock claimed the announced showed that “protecting the healthcare rights of UK nationals is a priority of this Government” it prompted much anger among campaigners and an accusation of betrayal.

'A massive betrayal of British people in Europe'

“This is yet more smoke and mirrors from the UK government and another massive let-down for UK pensioners in the EU 27,” said Jeremy Morgan, the vice-chair of British in Europe.

“Having paid UK taxes and contributions all their working lives, when they moved to their host country, they had the right and expectation to NHS-funded medical treatment for life.  This was a key factor in the decision of many when moving.

“Now the only guarantee they have is for six more months, or up to a year if they have already started treatment.  Just think what that means to someone who already needs life-long treatment, or a pensioner who gets a cancer diagnosis a month after Brexit.”

Kalba Meadows from the France Rights campaign group said: “In just a few minutes since this news was published we've seen an outcry of anger among Brits in France – and with good reason.

“It's a massive betrayal of British people in Europe. All the promises that we were a priority and that we would be 'able to live our lives as before' have turned into an illusion”.

British pensioners living throughout Europe have been warned however that they must take action to register for healthcare in their member states or they faced being ineligible for the six months cover. Letters will be sent out to 180,000 citizens urging them to act.

“To be eligible for this support, people must apply within local timeframes or no later than six months after we leave, whichever is the shortest,” read the government statement.

But British in Europe's Morgan said: “The Government is urging them to “act now to secure access to healthcare” as if it were as simple as ordering coffee in a restaurant.

“People won’t get private health insurance if they have existing conditions, and in those countries where it is possible to join a national scheme the cost is simply unaffordable for someone living on the state pension worth 20 percent less in euros as a result of Brexit.”

The British government has said that it has proposed to each EU member state that healthcare costs for those on the S1 scheme be covered until December 2020, but that if countries do not agree on this date by October 31st then the cover will only last six months.

Confusion

As well as anger the announcement on Monday has provoked much confusion, especially in France, where the government has already passed a law that pledges to cover the healthcare costs of British pensioners for two years. Although the French decree depends on reciprocity with the UK.

“We don't know whether France is likely to reduce its two years health care cover in the light of the UK statement,” said Kalba Meadows from the France Rights campaign group.

“We don't know exactly what S1 holders in France will be required to do – will they have to make an application to join PUMa, and if so when? Or will the switch, if and when there is one, happen automatically?” she added.

“In other words, we don't know very much at all,” she said.

“I've been through a huge roller coaster of emotions over the last three years but this has upset me and made me more angry than anything else because it's targeting the most vulnerable who are already terrified,” she added.

Member comments

  1. The British people voted to leave the EU and they also chose not to switch to the euro. The EU doesn’t have to accept any deal from England. Why are people afraid of Boris? He is just enforcing what was voted for.

  2. Maybe but don’t forget that the people voted to leave the EU based on a stream of lies being broadcast by who ? Yes, Boris Johnson. It need not be said that the expatriates living in Europe were not allowed to vote in the refrendum. Teresa May promised that we would be given the vote once she was elected but once again an unfulfilled promise. Finally why should we have to pay 119 euros for a ‘permis de séjour’ when all European nationals resident in the U.K get theirs for free ? Reciprocity !!!

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TRAVEL NEWS

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.

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