Shock horror for Brit expats as no-deal means no healthcare

Published:  30 Jan at 6 PM
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A no-deal Brexit will rob British expats in EU countries of their rights to free healthcare.

British expatriates living in EU member state, including France, Italy and Spain, will no longer be entitled to free heathcare in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The news is a major blow to retired British citizens living in popular destinations such as the Spanish Costas, France’s Provence region and Italy's Tuscany. It’s also bad news for the UK’s NHS, now struggling to cope after many of its EU citizen medical staff have opted to return to their home countries. Should a large number of UK pensioners decide to repatriate in order to get free medical treatment, the strain on the NHS could result in its breakdown in many areas.

Freedom of movement campaigner and immigration lawyer Colin Yeo sees the situation as just another example of how British lawmakers in favour of Brexit are playing with expats’ lives in order to gain points in the negotiations. Yeo believes few pundits and politicians even bother to find out how their policies would pan out when real people are involved. The news broke via a no-deal technical notice leaked to the press, which stated S1 certificates would not longer be valid after March 2019.

Sue Wilson, chair of Bremain in Spain, told reporters the news is devastating as expats across Europe had believed their healthcare entitlements were protected. Wilson is urging the British government to ensure expats’ healthcare rights are ringfenced, quoting the fact that EU expats in the UK will have settled status including NHS access whilst the medical needs of Britons living in Europe are not protected. Advice on the government’s automatic-reply ‘overseas healthcare’ phone number has now been amended to include a warning about the effects of a no-deal Brexit. It’s also advising Brits planning to emigrate to Switzerland or an EEA country that they have just four weeks to apply for their S1cards.

The British in Europe campaign group is concerned about the effects of losing free healthcare for patients with continuing needs such as those undergoing treatment for cancer, kidney failure and other potentially fatal conditions. The Spanish government’s dedicated Brexit helpline is now advising Britons concerned about losing their rights to free heathcare to investigate the possibility of private health insurance, without perhaps realising that Britons living on their state pensions could not afford the premiums. In addition, those over 70 years of age and those with existing conditions would be almost certainly be refused coverage.
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