Valencia region pledges free healthcare for Brits post-Brexit

The President of the Valencia region had some reassuring words for those British residents who have made their home in the region in eastern Spain.

Valencia region pledges free healthcare for Brits post-Brexit
Photo: vadimphoto1/Depositphotos

“Healthcare is not under threat for the 71,000 Britons issued with a health card,” Ximo Puig, the regional president from the Spanish socialist party (PSOE)  said, insisting that universal healthcare was a right for every Valencian citizen and would continue to be so, whether a Brexit withdrawal agreement was struck or not.

READ ALSO: British Embassy ‘reassures’ Brits in Spain over healthcare post-Brexit

Puig said that around 71,000 Brits were currently registered in the Valencia region and had been issued with health cards and they should not fear that they would become void after March 29th..

“No Briton will lose (Valencian) citizenship in terms of the basic right to healthcare,” he said on Tuesday, following an inter-departmental meeting to analyse the effects of Brexit of those living in the Valencia region.

La posición cambiante del Reino Unido respecto al Brexit nos empuja a desarrollar diferentes respuestas a cada uno de los escenarios posibles. Por ese motivo prestaremos asesoramiento a las empresas afectadas y pondremos en marcha una plataforma online de información para ellas

— Ximo Puig (@ximopuig) February 12, 2019


Apart from the 71,000 Brits officially registered as resident in Valencia – the majority of whom live along the coast in Alicante province – around 100,000 British visitors to the region receive healthcare while on holiday.

Valencia remains one of the most popular destinations in Spain for British residents and visitors alike. Last year, 37 percent of the 9.2 million visitors to the region came from the UK.

Puig said that in return for treating Brits at its health centres and hospitals, the region of Valencia claims approximately €75 million a year from the UK.

He said that “the Generalitat (Regional government) has the political will to formalize a bilateral agreement” with the United Kingdom, where some 10,000 Valencians live, to continue receiving economic compensation for the aforementioned universal health care”.

“Even in the worst case scenario of a hard Brexit, Brits can continue with their status as Valencians, and that means free healthcare,” he emphasized.

READ ALSO: The ultimate No-Deal Brexit checklist for Brits in Spain

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.