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Brexit: UK pensioners may be forced to return due to healthcare coverage

Hundreds of thousands of elderly Britons living in Europe may be forced to return to the UK unless the government guarantees that their healthcare will continue to be reimbursed by the NHS, campaigners for British people settled in Spain and France have warned.
The House of Commons Brexit select committee was told on Wednesday that an unintended consequence of Brexit could be a surge in immigration of British migrants both working and retired.

Groups campaigning for the rights of Britons settled in Europe told the committee that many pensioners in countries such as Spain and France would not be able to afford private health insurance if the current system was jettisoned post-Brexit.

“They may have no alternative but to come back,” said Sue Wilson, one of the founders of the Remain in Spain group.

The committee was also told there could be an exodus of professionals whose right to practice law, medicine or other disciplines would no longer be recognised if a deal was not done. They heard that in Italy alone 383 professions were legally recognised.

When the UK pulls out of Europe that legal entitlement falls aways, said Gareth Horsfall, representing Britons in Italy. “It’s not just a right to stay; it’s also a recognition [of professional entitlements],” he said.

They were speaking a day after Theresa May declared she had sought to seal an early deal guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the rights of Britons in Europe. She said “many countries” had supported this, but “one or two countries” had not.

Retired Britons in receipt of a British pension and their dependents can access medical treatment for free in countries such as Spain, France and Germany, with the cost reimbursed by the UK government. (full story The Guardian)


1. Are there any UK support groups like also Expat Citizen Rights in EU (Ecreu) active in Greece?

2. Are UK pensioners living here willing to return?

3. Is the healthcare issue a reason for return to UK?

Feed back will be very appreciated

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  1. It is a real worry Healthcare, both my Husband and Myself have Chronic illnesses and Medication costs us a fortune even though we only pay 25% it does say you should only pay 10% for chronic illness but non of the Doctors put this on the Prescription, We could not afford Private Healthcare, we would return to the UK if the house Sells, the Government has a right to Protect EX Pats and should sort it asap to save a lot of worrying. I live in Crete.

  2. To answer your questions
    1) I only know of INCO syllagos based in Agios Nikolaos
    2) I have no wish to return to UK voluntarily at all unless forced by ill health
    3) I will only return if I need medical care. I do not trust the health services here

  3. The Tories have no interest in expats and have reduced their support for them to near-zero. The last time I went to the British consulate in Kolonaki, with a stolen passport problem, they asked me why I had not taken Greek citizenship. AS if they wanted to be rid of the problem of expats.
    Moreover, if you return to the UK they treat you like shit. You are not allowed to apply for many jobs in the state sector (as a security risk) and you are refused any state help for at least 3 months — regardless of your financial position. I started legal action against the government, but they were determined to fight all the way to the Supreme Court (which of course only the super-rich can pay for). Basically, the UK stinks. Don’t expect anything from it, regardless of whether you stay in Greece or return.

  4. Will not be able to return because there is no chance of selling our property too much of a great loss to us, would not be able to afford a new house in the UK for what we will get for the one we have, do not know what will happen as I have quiet a few illnesses and my prescriptions are very exspensive each month. I have paid 40 years into the UK system so to me I have paid for my retirement and health care.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      thank you for the feed back, Sandra.

    • I am sorry to hear of your problems. To be more optimistic, the UK had bilateral treaties with most European countries prior to joining the EU, and it should be possible for these and some others to be revived. Those would cover pension payments, and maybe healthcare. This whole Brexit mess should never have been started in the first place: typical Tory selfishness, concerned only with themselves.

      • To be fair to Mrs May she has already expressed her wishes, BUT she requires reciprocity from the Continental Europeans. She raised this matter at the last EU Council Meeting and it was met with stony silence. The fault lies with Merkel and co, not Mrs May.

        • Nope. The Tories have decided that Europeans in the UK are a bargaining tool. All they have to do is state that they intend to give permenent residency rights to all current EU nationals in Britain, but they expect the same treatment for Brits across the EU. The nonsense in the EU Council meeting was caused by May.
          You’ve got to face it: British politicians are just nasty piece of right wing crap. They couldn’t give a fuck even about British citizens: they certainly couldn’t care less about European ones.

  5. 1. INCO is the only one I know of on Crete.

    2. I certainly do not want to return, there is nothing for us in the UK to return to.

    3. It’s going to depend on how much the Greeks want us to pay, if it’s affordable we’ll pay it, but if they implement the same healthcare provision that they do for other non-EU nationals we’ll have to go back because we couldn’t afford it.

    Another concern is the system that grants EU citizens who receive a pension from their home country IKA insurance. Will UK nationals who have obtained IKA insurance due to them receiving a pension in the UK loose that after Brexit?

    In my opinion the only sensible course of action (as far as Greece is concerned) is to agreed that all those Greeks living in the UK before the UK actually leaves will get free NHS care and all the Brits living in Greece will get IKA. Either that, or the current reciprocal arrangements will continue after Brexit.

    The one thing that should be avoided at all costs is forcing millions of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU to have to return home because of healthcare costs.

  6. We are UK expat pensioners living here in Greece. We have IKA books. I would be surprised if they were rescinded. We have had residents permits for 10 years. Even if everything went pear shaped wouldn’t it just revert to as before, when there was no common market and there were just reciprocal arrangements? Too early to start worrying about what are just maybes. Enjoy life while you can.

  7. A reciprocal agreement would be best, but will the Greeks honour it? I wonder. As it is in the UK a friend (Greek) went over there before Christmas and helped himself to free treatment this winter, in Birmingham. I cannot do the same here. I am advised the NHS is full of Greek doctors its a joke.

    • Yes, the Tories have fucked the NHS completely. As for bilateral agreements with the UK, the more normal problem is with the UK itself. The pensions agreements for the entire world (apart from the EU, of course) refuse to allow updating in line with inflation. Over decades, that means pensions decline to be worthless. An opposition MP tried to change this recently, with a private members bill, and the Tories laughed at it. Britain has fucked itself and its expats by electing right wing governments again and again, and now this Brexit calamity.

  8. There is a Facebook group BRIG Brits Remain In Greece
    I know of retirees who have said that if the healthcare goes they will go.

  9. I believed it to be based on lifestyle .If you contributed to yourtax demandsif you lived as a local and entered and live legally that should be thebasis of going forward As for health care if you have transfered yourheath costs to your new country of residence then it surely must be straight forward It is a matterof application Ia not getting anything for free it has been paid for up front and will continue to be paid for.I have after entered legally I continue to live legally and after Brexit I hope that wil be reconised