No deal is worst possible deal for British pensioners in the EU

Contrary to the prime minister’s idea that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, British pensioners living in the EU say it would be the “worst possible deal”.

Theresa May has said that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. However, for British pensioners living in the EU, “no deal” would be the “worst possible deal”. Speaking on behalf of groups of British citizens living in the EU, Christopher Chantrey said “the cliff edge has dramatically awful consequences” and that “no deal” was the “worst possible deal”.

No deal would be far, far worse than a bad one; it is the worst possible deal.

This will affect hundreds of thousands of UK citizens who have moved out there and are receiving their pensions and healthcare. They moved out in good faith on the implicit promise that these arrangements would continue.

Suddenly, something happens that brings those arrangements to an end. It is absolutely terrible for many people.

Christopher Chantrey, oral evidence to House of Commons Health select committee

The prime minister’s insistence that “no deal is better than a bad deal” is despite her government not having even conducted an economic impact assessment on one. Here’s a clip of Brexit secretary David Davis’ making the admission to the House of Commons Brexit committee.


Chantrey, a British resident living in France, was giving evidence to MPs on the impact of Brexit on reciprocal healthcare. He said that it is “absolutely essential” that the UK and EU maintain the reciprocal arrangements that currently exist. Chantrey also told the committee that many Brits who had moved to the EU would not be able to afford private insurance.

How reciprocal healthcare works in the EU

According to the Department of Health’s written evidence to the committee, healthcare entitlements under EU law fall within the wider scope of social security benefits. The arrangements apply to the whole of the European Economic Area plus Switzerland. The Department of Health’s statement states “benefits are reciprocal and apply both to UK citizens in the EEA (plus Switzerland), and EEA (plus Switzerland) citizens in the UK”. The arrangements also cover travellers and holiday-makers through the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

It adds that “the central point of these arrangements is that the costs of healthcare are borne by the country in which the individual is ‘insured’”. For instance, a Brit who has paid their taxes in the UK and then retires to Spain would have access to healthcare in Spain but the costs would be billed to the UK.

Interestingly, the report shows that the current arrangements are better for the UK taxpayer because the healthcare costs of Brits living in the EU amount to less than they would if they were being treated in the UK.

You can find the full report at

The danger that reciprocal rights are not agreed come from the UK government

Reciprocal rights for Brits in the EU and EU citizens in the UK will be included in the first part of negotiations under the withdrawal agreement. So far the both the UK and EU has said that they wanted to secure their residency rights. However, in their updated guidelines for Brexit negotiations, the EU has been more specific about its position.

Agreeing reciprocal guarantees to safeguard the status and rights derived from EU law at the date of withdrawal of EU and UK citizens, and their families, affected by the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union will be the first priority for the negotiations.

Such guarantees must be comprehensive, effective, enforceable and non-discriminatory.

Amended draft European Council guidelines following the UK’s notification under Article 50

The new guidelines, which are expected to be agreed this weekend by the EU council, imply the EU would like both sets of citizens to effectively be in the same position as they are in now. This position will no doubt be equally welcome to worried Brits in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.

The risk, it seems, would be if the UK wants to include restrictions on those rights. And then there’s the biggest risk of all – that the UK leaves with “no deal”.

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