A House of Lords committee has said the government “must do more” to secure the healthcare and pensions security of UK citizens living in the EU who have been living in “a state of anxiety and uncertainty for several years”.
The chair of the committee, Lord Morris of Aberavon, wrote a letter to the Brexit department minister James Duddridge questioning whether the government had offered more to EU citizens resident in the UK than it had done to the 1.3 million UK citizens living in the EU.
Aberavon added that some of the government’s actions may be “actively counter-productive” in terms of ensuring the security of healthcare, welfare benefits and pension entitlements of its own citizens abroad.
He urged the government to engage urgently with the EU to protect the rights of UK citizens in the EU after Brexit. The government “must do more”, Aberavon wrote.
The House of Lords EU justice subcommittee is demanding that the government agree to a list of assurances to avoid British citizens currently living in the EU suffering what it says are significant healthcare and pensions difficulties after Brexit.
In the letter, Aberavon asks the government to commit to an indefinite right for UK citizens and their families to return to the UK in future; continued funding for healthcare until any post-Brexit agreement is reached; and uprating the pensions of UK nationals living in the EU for as long as they continue to live there.
He also calls for the arrangements for student fees and finance to apply to all children born before the Brexit referendum.
“We acknowledge that the UK government cannot take unilateral action to mitigate every difficulty faced by UK citizens in the EU, since this sometimes requires reciprocity by our EU partners,” Aberavon wrote. “But we were also told that the UK government could be doing more in a number of areas.
“The situation, as it stands, means that many UK citizens have now lived in a state of anxiety and uncertainty for several years,” he added. “Many UK nationals moved to the EU several decades ago and did so with a reasonable expectation that the rights to which they were then entitled would not be subsequently removed without due notice and consultation.”
Aberavon makes clear that the committee was frustrated by the decision of the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, to refuse their invitation to give evidence to them and asked whether the government had done basic research on how its citizens would be affected by Brexit. He wrote: “What conversations have you had with UK businesses about their concerns … and what assessment have you made of the impact on UK businesses?”
The government declined to comment but highlighted a letter sent earlier this month from Duddridge to Aberavon in which he wrote that although UK nationals “deserve certainty about their rights going forward, in any scenario … in a no-deal scenario, the government cannot unilaterally protect the rights of UK nationals in other countries”.
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