Europe & You newsletter: Government’s no-deal Brexit letters to Brits around Europe cause alarm

Brits around Europe are steadily receiving communication from the British government regarding the impact of a no-deal Brexit, but far from reassuring the recipients the letters are causing alarm.

Europe & You newsletter: Government's no-deal Brexit letters to Brits around Europe cause alarm
Photo: AFP/Jean-Jacques Ganon

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Hi readers,

Have you been receiving letters from the British government either urging you to 'get ready for Brexit' or advising you what you need to do to ensure you have health cover in future?

Boris Johnson's government is desperately trying to get word out to the 1.3 million Brits in the EU including  200,000 pensioners that they need to take action to prepare for Brexit on “October 31st”.

“The UK is leaving the European Union (EU) on 31 October 2019,” reads a letter sent from the NHS Business Services Authority that is aimed at warning British pensioners what they need to do to ensure their health costs will be covered in future.

The government announced this week that their healthcare costs would be covered for up to six months in a no-deal Brexit.

“The UK Government is working hard to secure a deal covering healthcare arrangements, but this letter provides guidance as to what you should do now if the UK leaves the EU without securing a deal.”


“You should be ready for possible permanent changes to how you access healthcare if there is a no- deal Brexit,” British pensioners are warned before being advised on what action to take including possibly getting private health insurance.

But the letters are been causing a certain amount of stress for pensioners, many of whom are receiving treatment for serious ongoing health conditions.

The healthcare one is very very unclear and is causing alarm (again!),” Kalba Meadows from British in Europe and France Rights tells The Local.

“It's not at all clear about the six month transitional arrangement and anyone reading it who isn't following the updates is likely to panic when the read this sentence “The UK’s participation in the S1 scheme will continue until at least 31 October 2019.”

“I think it's a great shame – and really concerning – that the government's communications on health care haven't been clearer – it's such a fundamental issue for people, and especially those with serious health conditions, and the Department of Health and Social Care needs to be sensitive to that.

“It should be the UK government's job to inform and communicate – instead we find ourselves doing it for them in order to mitigate the panic and the damage that letters like this are inadvertently doing,” said Meadows.

If you are pensioner on the S1 scheme and haven't yet received a letter from the British government you can read it HERE.

If you wanted to know why the letters and indeed the government's announcement have caused such anger among recipients then our columnist Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain explains.

“Like thousands of others, I moved to Spain expecting free healthcare for life. I paid into the National Health Service for 38 years. I did not envisage paying for private healthcare or prescription charges in my retirement,” she writes.

“National Health Insurance has that name for a reason. When you pay into an insurance policy for years, you expect payback when it’s required. Whether I spend my retirement in Bradford, Bournemouth or Barcelona should not make any difference to the cover I receive.” For more from Sue Wilson click on the link below.

OPINION: I moved to Spain expecting free health cover for life

All Brits in France and around the EU are also being sent letters from the ambassador telling them to get ready for Brexit. It includes instructions for what to do in the event of a no deal Brexit including that they will need to apply for residency within six months.

And the government is also sending out a third letter outlining that if the UK leaves without a deal, pensions for those in the EU will be uprated for a further 3 years.

Here are three other Brexit related articles from our sites this week that might interest you.

Thanks for reading.

Remember to email me your questions at [email protected]


Managing Editor, The Local Europe




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Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?