BREXIT - HEALTHCARE AGREEMENT FOR EXPATS
THE THIRD round of EU exit negotiations in Brussels ended last week with Brexit secretary David Davis MP promising that a deal had been reached over healthcare and citizens’ rights.
In his closing remarks, Mr Davis – the head of the UK’s department for exiting the European Union – stated that his team and that of EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had engaged in ‘long and detailed discussions across multiple areas’.
“I think it is fair to say that we have seen some concrete progress,” he said.
Mr Davis said both sides agreed 'that we should at least protect existing healthcare rights and arrangements for EU27 citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU. The EHIC arrangements'.
He continued: “That is good news for example for British pensioners in the EU: it means that they will continue to have their healthcare arrangements protected both where they live and – when they travel to another Member State – to be able to use an EHIC card.”
The technical note published by the UK and EU following the completion of the third round of talks states: “Persons whose competent state is the UK and are in the EU27 on exit day (and vice versa) - whether on a temporary stay or resident - continue to be eligible for healthcare reimbursement, including under the EHIC scheme, as long as that position continues.”
Mr Davis also stated that they had agreed to ‘cover future social security contributions for those covered by the Withdrawal Agreement’.
In his speech, Mr Barnier noted that they ‘have clarified a few points this week’ on citizens’ rights, ‘but we need to go further to reassure citizens’.
He added: “Over the summer, around one hundred EU and EEA citizens living lawfully in the UK received deportation letters. The UK government quickly recognised that this was a mistake. But this is not the first time that something like this has happened. It reinforces the need to ensure that citizens’ rights are directly enforceable in front of national jurisdictions, under the control of the European Court of Justice, a point on which we disagree today.”
No further details on these issues had been provided by the UK government or the EU at the time of going to press.
Both sides had stated earlier this year that they wanted to strike an ‘early deal’ on expats’ rights which would see guarantees thrashed out be- fore the conclusion of Brexit negotiations.
Mr Davis also noted that in the field of economic rights, ‘we have secured the right of British citizens in the EU27 to set up and manage a business within their Member State of residence, and of course visa versa’.
“On mutual recognition of qualifications, we have made progress in protecting the recognition of qualifications for British citizens resident in the EU27 and EU27 citizens in the UK,” he said.
Mr Davis also admitted that there are big differences between the two sides over the financial settlement, also known as the ‘divorce bill’.
“I think we have succeeded in building mutual understanding, but it is also clear that there are still significant differences to be bridged,” he said.
On Ireland and Northern Ireland, Mr Davis stated: “We had a good discussion on maintaining the Common Travel Area and on safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement, on the basis of the UK paper.
“We think there is a high degree of convergence on these key issues, and we agreed to work up shared principles on the Common Travel Area.”
In his closing remarks Mr Davis stated: “The third round of talks have been productive and are an important stepping stone and key building block for discussions to come.
“We are peeling away the layers, one by one, working through many issues at speed, and moving towards the core of these important matters.
“We have locked in points of agreement and unpicked areas of divergence.”
However, Mr Barnier was at pains to stress that ‘ we made no decisive progress on the main subjects, even though – and I want to say so – the discussion on Ireland was fruitful’.
He added: “But, I repeat again, time is passing quickly for us to reach a global agreement. At the current speed, we are far from being able to recommend to the European Council that there has been sufficient progress in order to start discussions on the future relationship, while we are finalising the withdrawal agreement throughout 2018.”
Mr Barnier also warned against any attempt by the British government to try to negotiate with individual EU countries, as was touted in the UK last week.
“Those who look for the slightest difference between what this European negotiating team is doing and what Member States want are wasting their time,” he said.
On the Single Market, he stated: “The UK wants to take back control, it wants to adopt its own standards and regulations.
“But it also wants to have these standards recognised automatically in the EU. That is what UK papers ask for. This is simply impossible. You cannot be outside the Single Market and shape its legal order.”
However, Mr Barnier recognised the ‘engagement’ on both sides and said he wanted to reach an agreement for the remaining 27 countries.
“Once again, time is passing very quickly, and if required, we are ready on our side – the 27 EU Member States and the European Institutions, to step up the pace of negotiations,” he said.
David Davis (left) with Michel Barnier last week