No-deal Brexit: British pensioners in EU to lose NHS healthcare cover

British retirees living in France, Spain, Italy, Germany and elsewhere in the EU will lose their free healthcare if no Brexit deal has been agreed by March 29th, the UK government said on Tuesday.

No-deal Brexit: British pensioners in EU to lose NHS healthcare cover
Photo: Depositphotos
At the moment British nationals who retire to the EU have their healthcare covered by the NHS but in the event of a no deal this will no longer be the case, the UK government revealed in a technical notice published on Tuesday.
The news will no doubt be met with fear and worry among the 190,000 British pensioners who are retired in France, Spain, Italy, Germany and other EU countries.
It is believed that the situation could lead to an increased burden on the NHS due to the fact that British retirees may decide it's better to return to the UK for treatment.
Currently, pensioners can benefit from the “S1” reciprocal healthcare rules if they retire in the EU, EEA countries or Switzerland.

Brexit: What are Britons living in France supposed to do now?

The S1 certificate helps pensioners and their dependants access healthcare in France. 
“If you have an S1 certificate, it will be valid until 29 March 2019. After this date, the certificate may not be valid, depending on decisions by member states,” the government said. 
Sue Wilson, chair of Bremain in Spain campaign group blasted the change.
“All along we've been told our healthcare is protected. This is a big shock to everyone and our members are really scared,” she said. 
Online support groups for Britons in EU countries have been bombarded with posts in recent weeks from pensioners worried anxious about the future of their health care. Some are undergoing cancer treatment and believe any upheaval caused by Brexit could mean life or death for them.
The UK government, which previously said it is cheaper to pay EU countries to look after Britons’ medical bills than have them return home, is attempting to secure bilateral deals with EU member states regarding healthcare however none have been agreed so far. 
The technical notice advises Britons in living in European countries to sign up for the local healthcare system which, in many cases, will mean paying for treatment. 

Member comments

  1. This treatment, or even the threat, at the eleventh hour by a government who has promised that this would not happen is despicable and beyond contemptible; especially as a large swathe of British expats have been disenfranchised by the 15-year rule and have not been allowed a say in such an important vote that will effect their future.

  2. I wish all us anti Brexit Brits living outside the not so UK could descend on London gather outside Parliment and protest against this bloody awful government. When i saw interviews with some British Pensioners living in Spain saying they were voting yes to coming out of the EU I thought to myself dumb is too polite a word then later to see their reactions when told the pound would drop against the euro so they would loose money and they might not get the reciprocal healthcare the enjoy now and would have to pay for their healthcare the expressions on their faces were priceless. Sorry but they are dumme Idioten

  3. There was a report in the Guardian yesterday, quoting the DH&SC (Dept of Health & Social Care) that discussions were advanced with France and Spain over re-introducing reciprocal health cover under bi-lateral agreements, which will be needed if there is no deal. The point was well understood that it is cheaper for them to fund our care here, than in the UK. Basically, we were told not to worry.

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‘Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed’ – How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

A new in-depth survey on British nationals living in the EU has revealed the impact that Brexit has had upon their lives, and their attitudes to their country of origin.

'Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed' - How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

The study, conducted by academics at Lancaster and Birmingham universities, provides a snapshot of how Brits in the EU live – their age, family, work and education – and how they feel about the UK in the six years since the Brexit vote.

Unsurprisingly, it revealed that Brexit has had a major practical impact on the lives of Brits living in the EU – who are now subject to third-country rules and require residency cards or visas and face restrictions on voting and onward movement within the EU.

But the survey’s 1,328 respondents were also asked about their emotions towards the country of their birth.

Eighty percent of respondents said it had changed their feelings towards the UK.

A British woman living in Norway said she felt: “Deep, deep shame. Embarrassed to be British, ashamed that I didn’t try hard enough, or appreciate my EU citizenship.”

“Since Brexit I am disappointed in the UK. I am worried, and no longer feel like I have the same affinity for the country. It’s a shame because I love ‘home’ but the country feels so polarised,” added a British woman in her 30s living in Denmark.

An Austrian resident with dual British-Irish nationality said: “I feel disconnected, like it’s a completely different country from how I left it.

“So much so I feel more connected with my second nationality (Irish) despite the fact I never grew up in Ireland. It’s embarrassing what’s happened in the UK and what continues to happen. It’s like watching a house on fire from afar.”

The experience of living abroad during the pandemic also affected people’s feelings towards the UK, with 43 percent of people saying the UK’s handling of the Covid crisis affected their feelings towards the county.

A British woman in her 50s living in Spain said: “It was shambolic. Too late, too little, mixed messaging, lack of seriousness. So many deaths after what should have been a head start.”

A British man living in Greece described it simply as “a shit show”.

In addition to the Brexit effect, the survey also provided interesting and detailed data on the lives and profiles of Brits who live in the EU;

  • 69 percent had degree-level education
  • 77 percent worked in a professional or managerial role
  • 53 percent are of working age
  • 59 percent have been living in their country of residence for more than five years
  • 78 percent said it was very unlikely that they would move countries in the next five years 
  • The most common reasons for moving country were retirement (40 percent), family reasons (35 percent) and work (30 percent)

Almost all respondents said that Brexit had impacted their lives, with the loss of freedom of movement being the most common effect mentioned.

One man said: “My original plan (pre-2016) was to move to France on retirement, due in 2026. Brexit caused me to move sooner, in order to retain my European citizenship rights. The pandemic helped (indirectly) in that I got locked down in France in 2020, which enabled me to earn residence under the pre-Brexit rules. I had been talking to my employer about doing something similar before the pandemic broke.”

“I moved to France in 2020 in order to protect my right to live and work in France post-Brexit. My migration is 100 percent a result of Brexit,” said one American-British dual national.

Other respondents talked about the post-Brexit admin necessary to gain residency status in their country, financial losses due to the weakening of the pound against the euro and the loss on onward freedom of movement – meaning that Brits resident in one EU country no longer have the right to move to another.

The report also highlighted that only 60 percent of respondents had changed their legal status by security residency since Brexit.

For some Brits in the EU this is not necessary if they already have citizenship of their country of residence (or another EU country such as Ireland) but the report’s author highlighted that: “It may also offer an early indicator that within this population there are some who may find themselves without legal residence status, with consequences in the future for their right to residence, and access to healthcare, welfare and work (among other services).”

READ ALSO What to do if you have missed the Brexit deadline in France 

In total 42 percent of respondents were completely disenfranchised – the 15-year rule means they can no longer vote in the UK, while the loss of EU citizenship means that they cannot vote in European or local elections in their country of residence.

The British government has recently announced the ending of the 15-year rule, giving voting rights to all UK nationals, no matter how long they live outside the UK.