BREXIT: UK REVEALS DEAL FOR EXPATS
BRITAIN’S Prime Minister Theresa May set out her post-Brexit offer for EU citizens in Parliament on Monday.
At the same time, the Conservative government published a 15-page policy paper entitled ‘safeguarding the position of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU’ which gave more details.
Mrs May stated that any future deal for European citizens living in the UK must be reciprocal and give certainty to British expats living on the continent after the UK leaves the EU.
However, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, tweeted ‘more ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today’s UK position’.
The policy paper sets out 58 points which will form the basis of negotiations with the EU. Highlights for expats in Spain include statements on healthcare and pensions.
The UK government notes that ‘our clear intention’ during negotiations is to ensure expats continue to enjoy current healthcare arrangements.
“During negotiations, the UK will seek to protect the healthcare arrangements currently set out in EU Regulations and domestic UK law for UK nationals and EU citizens who benefit from these arrangements before the specified date,” they state.
“We will also seek to protect the right of UK nationals and EU citizens to obtain and benefit from the European Health Insurance Card scheme. This will ensure that EU citizens are still eligible for NHS-funded healthcare in the UK and vice versa for UK nationals in the EU.”
The policy paper then provides an example of a fictitious British expat pensioner, in an attempt to give more clarity.
“Sarah is a UK national who retired to Spain in 2005. She is drawing a UK state pension and has a UK S1 form registered in Spain. The S1 form is a standard EU certificate which demonstrates an individual’s entitlement to healthcare in their country of residence.
"Individuals are required to register the S1 document in their new EU Member State of residence. This means that the UK reimburses Spain the cost of providing medical treatment to her. Sarah has a UK-issued EHIC, which she can use if needed during temporary visits to another EU country (not the UK). After the UK leaves the EU, we want to secure Sarah’s current healthcare entitlements so that they will continue on the same basis.”
The document also addresses the ‘frozen pension’ fear but falls short of giving a cast-iron guarantee.
“UK law already provides that UK state pensions are payable to anyone eligible, wherever they reside in the world,” they note.
“But annual increases to the UK state pension (known as ‘uprating’) to anyone living in the EU are payable because of EU law. The UK intends to continue to export and uprate the UK state pension within the EU, subject to reciprocity.”
Commenting on these issues, Valencia-based Sue Wilson - chair of Bremain in Spain, a group campaigning for the rights of British citizens in Spain - said: “It’s unlikely that Brits who are seriously concerned about their future in the EU will have calmed down or been reassured by what we’re hearing from the UK government. Although hopes were raised on hearing May speak about the offer in Parliament, there was disappointment when we had the opportunity to review the document in full.
“For example, May told the House of Commons that the UK would continue to provide healthcare cover within the EU, but the phrasing in the policy paper only stated that the UK would ‘seek to protect the healthcare arrangements’.
“It’s understandable that many are finding it difficult to take May's words at face value, or to feel that we are any closer to a resolution.”
The government begins its policy paper with the declaration that ‘ our first priority is to reach agreement on the postexit position of EU citizens now living in the UK and of UK nationals living in other EU countries’.
“Over one million UK nationals have moved to other countries in the EU, and many have built their lives there,” they note. “Their ability to stay, and for life to continue much as it does now, depends on the agreement that is reached between the UK and the EU.”
However, according to the policy paper, EU citizens in the UK will have to apply for new residence status – something which may be reciprocal for Britons living in Europe.
“After our departure, it will become mandatory to apply for permission to stay in the UK,” notes the document.
It continues: “We guarantee that qualifying individuals will be granted settled status in UK law (indefinite leave to remain pursuant to the Immigration Act 1971). This means they will be free to reside in any capacity and undertake any lawful activity, to access public funds and services and to apply for British citizenship.”
To qualify, the EU citizen must have completed a period of five years’ continuous residence in the UK ‘before they apply for settled status, at which point they must still be resident’.
“Those EU citizens who arrived and became resident before the specified date but who have not accrued five years’ continuous residence at the time of the UK’s exit will be able to apply for temporary status in order to remain resident in the UK until they have accumulated five years, after which they will be eligible to apply for settled status,” they explain. “Those EU citizens who arrived after the specified date will be allowed to remain in the UK for at least a temporary period and may become eligible to settle permanently, depending on their circumstances – but this group should have no expectation of guaranteed settled status.”
The document goes on to state: “The UK fully expects that the EU and its member states will ensure, in a reciprocal way, that the rights set out above are similarly protected for UK nationals living across the EU before the specified date.
“Firstly, UK nationals in the EU must be able to attain a right equivalent to settled status in the country in which they reside. Secondly, they must be able to continue to access benefits and services across the member states akin to the way in which they do now.”
The application for ‘settled status’ will not be free.
“We recognise the cost of the new scheme will be important for EU nationals,” notes the government.
“The UK intends to set fees at a reasonable level. We will publish further details in due course.”
The UK government ‘does intend to introduce a voluntary scheme to enable eligible EU citizens to apply for their permission to stay and residence document before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU’.
“This will enable them to obtain their UK immigration status at an early stage, should they wish to do so, in order to ensure as smooth and efficient a process as possible for EU residents here,” they state.
“Details will be advertised in due course.”
Theresa May said it will be 'mandatory' for EU citizens to apply for permission to stay in UK