I would be grateful for your help in finding some definitive answers and assurances to the following questions. I have been researching for the past year, with contradictory results and nobody is able to provide me with a clear response..
There are currently, according to the Financial Times, 400,000 Britons claiming their pensions in other EU countries.
We all currently benefit from reciprocal health arrangements in the EU. For example, this means that I am able to be a member of the French health service scheme which covers 70% of my health costs (although like all in France, I also have a private health insurance costing 1,500 euros a year, which covers the remaining 30% of costs.)
As a member of the EU, Britain refunds the cost of health care for its retired citizens.
The fear is that after a Brexit, reciprocal arrangements would end, and that British pensioners would be required to pick up the whole cost of their health care through private health insurance.
Not only would this be enormously expensive, unaffordable for most, but far worse, it would not cover existing conditions, which may well include illnesses like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and so on.
Recent past history is not encouraging, as the French government only ten years ago attempted to prevent non French EU nationals (below pension age) from belonging to their health system at all. Many already receiving treatment for cancer found themselves in a position where they faced an end to their treatment. Only the intervention of the EU courts prevented the French from implementing this change.
After a Brexit, British citizens, including pensioners, will not be covered by EU law as they will no longer be EU citizens. Therefore there will be no guarantee that reciprocal health care will continue and there will be no obligation on the French (or any other EU country) to maintain arrangements with British pensioners, particularly if the British themselves decide it is no longer necessary to continue to fund these.
I have heard it argued that we have ‘nothing to worry about’ as the law of ‘vested rights’ applies, and therefore obligations entered into under treaty arrangements cannot be removed. Others including experts in international law, have taken a contrary view.
Reading the recent Parliamentary report with which you will be acquainted, on the legal implications of leaving the EU, I find the following paragraph:
“There is nothing in the EU treaties which states that vested rights
acquired during the currency of the EU treaties would automatically
continue after leaving the EU. Unlike many international treaties, there
is no ‘survival clause’ with rules on the protection of acquired rights
of/against British citizens and businesses and the possible survival of claims based on EU law. “
Parliamentary report on legal implications of exit BRIEFING PAPER
Number 07214, 12 February, 2016.
This seems to make it abundantly clear that there is no guarantee that our rights to health care will continue and that there is nothing in the treaty which would ensure this after a Brexit.
For reciprocal health care to continue, it would require the agreement of both the country of residence and the British government to continue current funding commitments under the EU Treaty. How will this be achieved?
This is of immense concern to all British pensioners living in the EU, except for those with considerable means.
I have sunk my entire life savings into exercising my right to free movement under treaties which have existed for more than 40 years, burning my bridges, with the reasonable expectation that treaties which have existed for most of my life are unlikely to be abruptly changed. I have no home back in the UK and I would be financially ruined if I was forced to move.
There is no way I could afford 100% private health insurance which according to estimates would cost more than half of my annual pension income.
British pensioners in the EU are entitled to the following reassurances:
1. A commitment by the British government, that even in the event of a vote to leave in the referendum, it would guarantee to continue its commitments to pensioners under current reciprocal care arrangements.
Please ask the current Minister for Europe or the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to provide such an assurance. We need to know BEFORE the referendum what our future will be.
2. A commitment from the Leave campaign that they would continue to support and honour the current treaty arrangements affecting British pensioners in Europe. As someone supporting the Leave campaign, I would be grateful if you would put that question to those leading the campaign.
3. An assurance that under Article 50 and the ensuing discussions with other member states that this would be one of the fundamental conditions which the British government would wish to preserve in its future relationship with the EU.
I look forward to your reply and would be grateful if you would pass these concerns to the appropriate members of the government. Please seek an urgent response from them. It is important that such information is made public well before the referendum.