Healthcare could be “deciding factor” for British expats abroad

Healthcare could be a “deciding factor” for British expats currently living overseas in Europe, a campaign group has told the House of Commons.

As the UK plans to leave the European Union, one of the major issues that the negotiations will raise is the rights of EU nationals in the country and the rights of Britons abroad.

Speaking last week in a keynote speech about the government’s Brexit objectives, Prime Minister Theresa May insisted that the UK wants “to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states, as early as we can”.

“I have told other EU leaders that we could give people the certainty they want straight away, and reach such a deal now,” she announced. “Many of them favour such an agreement – 1 or 2 others do not – but I want everyone to know that it remains an important priority for Britain – and for many other member states – to resolve this challenge as soon as possible. Because it is the right and fair thing to do.”

The remarks have been welcomed by groups of British expats as a positive step to open negotiations, encouraging other EU nations to do the same.

Sue Wilson, a founder of the Remain in Spain campaign group, told the House of Commons Brexit select committee that it was vital to guarantee expats’ pension rights, as well as secure the continuation of free healthcare under EU social security arrangements.

“Some 108,000 UK pensioners are living in Spain. People are suffering now – with the exchange rate, concerns about healthcare and fears about their future. Many originally moved to Spain because it was cheaper to buy property there. Will they be able to stay, can they afford to stay, or will they be forced back to England? These people cannot wait 2.5 years for a resolution. Theresa May should act unilaterally now and encourage other countries to reciprocate,” Wilson commented.

She added that healthcare funding for expats in Spain could be a “deciding factor” in whether people then decide to return to the UK.