Theresa May can already provide guarantees to Brits in the EU

Theresa May can already provide guarantees to Brits living in other EU countries. She just chooses not to.

We’ve written lots previously of the overwhelming support for the UK to unilaterally guarantee the right to remain for the millions of EU citizens already in the UK. This is something the government can do now and it’s right that Britain makes the first move. Britain kicked this all off in the first place. But the government insists it cannot do so until the EU does the same for British citizens in their countries. However, the UK government can already do something for British citizens. Why doesn’t it?

For British citizens living in other EU countries, it’s generally assumed that it’s the EU’s refusal to start negotiations until Article 50 is triggered that’s blocking them getting those guarantees. However, ECREU, a group campaigning for the rights of expat citizens in the EU said that Theresa May can already provide some guarantees to Britons in the EU.

In their live blog of Theresa May’s Brexit speech, the Guardian reports that issues including pension benefits and healthcare rights can already be guaranteed by her government.

This has nothing to do with EU leaders reciprocating. The UK pays them so there was nothing to stop her getting up and saying that healthcare and pensions were guaranteed and we will negotiate the rest separately. It would have taken a lot off people’s minds if she had done.”

Dave Spokes, a founder of ECREU (Expat Citizen Rights in EU)

As an EU citizen, Brits have the right to maintain existing pension rights regardless of whether they live in the UK or another EU country. The main right being that their pension will increase in line with inflation. The UK doesn’t need to wait for the EU to guarantee that this will still be the case – at least for Brits who have already retired to an EU country. This is because the UK pays it. Whilst retirees to countries outside the UK can still claim their pension, they do not get the same guarantee that their pension would increase in line with inflation.

The Guardian also reports that the UK pays for the healthcare provided to Brits in some EU countries. So the government could again guarantee that this would continue.

ECREU founder Dave Spokes adds that many of these costs are less in other EU countries. So the UK actually makes a saving! The vast majority of Brits living in another EU country are retirees. If the government doesn’t continue paying for their healthcare costs, it would mean having to return to the UK for many of them – even if they didn’t want to.

And this could only add to the troubles already facing the NHS.

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