For British pensioners living abroad, Brexit is already a bad deal
A weak pound since the referendum means British pensioners living abroad are already losing out. And access to EU rights including healthcare remains uncertain.
Whilst older Brits living in the UK were more likely to vote leave, it’s older Brits living abroad who are already feeling the cost of Brexit.
The fall of the pound since the referendum means that their pensions don’t stretch as far. And it remains uncertain if British citizens living in the EU will be able to keep benefits from EU membership including healthcare and pensions linked to inflation. Whether they do hangs on reaching a withdrawal agreement in Brexit negotiations. Whilst the leave campaign focussed a lot on immigration to the UK, it largely ignored the impact leaving would have on British immigrants to the EU.
One Brexiteer argument is that free movement means “uncontrolled” immigration and that this is a burden to our services. Yet, the vast majority of EU immigration to the UK is work-related meaning they don’t just pay into the system, they also work in the system – as nurses, doctors, carers, teachers and more. In many sectors (not just public services), we’re already experiencing labour shortages. The government knows this and has started to acknowledge that Britain needs immigration as this New Statesman piece shows. Unfortunately, for far too long, successive governments and certain media have spent too long demonising immigration. Indeed, a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggest that a populist policy aiming to reduce immigration would negatively impact the economy.
Meanwhile the majority of Brits living abroad are older and retired. They choose to do so for a number of reasons including better weather and a more comfortable lifestyle. But as the Guardian reports, many of them may be forced to return to the UK if the benefits secured by EU membership are no longer available to them. If they do, it’s not just a matter of them no longer being able to live where they’d like, it will also add to the burden on our public services. In February, the House of Commons Health Committee heard that under existing arrangements, it costs the UK less to pay for a British retiree’s healthcare in the EU than it does if they were living in the UK.
A new poll suggests that Brexit is also impacting people’s decision to retire to the EU in future. The Guardian reports that 41% of over-50s who had previously considered retiring to continental Europe were now less likely to do so because of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.