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Will Britons resident in Spain still get healthcare after Brexit?

This is one of the questions that is most concerning to Brits living in Spain, especially the huge number of residents who have retired here and are relying on free access to Spain’s health service.

Will Britons resident in Spain still get healthcare after Brexit?
Photo: everythingposs/Depositphotos

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, reciprocal healthcare arrangements will not automatically survive.

“We are in a situation now where many of our fellow-citizens living in Spain or France do not know in just over 40 days time whether they will have any health cover,” Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the House of Commons health select committee told the BBC earlier in February.

But the good news is that the UK has been exploring options with different member states, including Spain, to ensure UK nationals living in the EU can continue to access healthcare, even in a no deal scenario. 

The Spanish are also preparing measures on healthcare to be included in their Real Decreto – a new that will be passed in the coming days that contains contingency plans in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

The expectation is that their proposal will reciprocate the offer already made to EU nationals living in the UK, which is that they can continue receiving their healthcare as now.

READ ALSO:  Spain to pass new law to protect rights of Britons in case of no-deal Brexit

Spain to pass new law to protect rights of Britons in case of no-deal Brexit

EHIC card

The important thing to remember is that UK nationals who rely on their EHIC card if they fall ill will NOT be covered in case of a no-deal Brexit.

While that isn’t a worry for those who live in Spain and have a Spanish health card, it is something to warn visitors and relatives who might be coming to stay for any period of time.

The UK government have therefore advised that UK residents travelling to Spain after March 29th ensure they have comprehensive travel insurance to cover any medical treatment they might need whilst on holiday

Those who are living in Spain and are entitled to one can apply for a Spanish EHIC card that will mean they can access necessary healthcare in other EU countries, useful if you plan to pop over for a holiday in Italy or France.

An orderly Brexit

If the UK leaves the EU with Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement, then after March 29th 2019 UK nationals in EU countries would continue to receive state healthcare on the same terms as they are currently entitled.

So those pensioners who have cover under the S1 scheme and those will be eligible for one when they retire, will continue to have their healthcare funded by the UK. For British workers in Spain who pay into the national health scheme then, the rules will remain as they are now. 

A transition period until December 2020 means Britons who move to Spain before that date will also be covered.

What the scenario will be for Brits who arrive in Spain after 2020 depends on future negotiations between the EU and the UK.

In the event of a No-Deal will the S1 for pensioners still be valid?

If you are working in Spain and paying social security contributions to Spain, you would still be able to access state-funded healthcare. And Brexit, deal or No-Deal, won’t change that.

But one of the biggest concerns is what will happen to UK pensioners living elsewhere in the EU who currently benefit from the S1 certificate, which means they are entitled to the same healthcare as nationals of the countries in which they live.

But it's not just for pensioners but also some others with exportable benefits, frontier workers and posted workers for an initial period.

In the event of a No-Deal Brexit then theoretically the S1 arrangement would automatically cease to apply but in Spain’s new Brexit contingency plan law – which is due to be signed on Friday March 1st – the Spanish government guarantees that the same conditions will be applied until December 2020.

Basically, if you were entitled to access Spanish healthcare based on an S1 certificate before March 29th 2019, then you can legitimately continue for another 21 months.

However, this has to be reciprocated by the British authorities towards Spanish citizens in UK or the measure will be suspended within two months.

More information: 

Check in regularly to the FCO website Living in Spain HERE and their Facebook page HERE

For more about healthcare in Spain check out the FCO guidance page HERE  and the NHS guidelines for travelling abroad HERE.

Visit the Spanish government dedicated Brexit information page HERE

READ MORE: This is what the Spanish are promising Brits if there is a no-deal Brexit

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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.