Since the start of the ‘Brexit Brits Abroad’ project in July last year, Karen has made two long field trips to Spain, in October 2017 and January 2018. She has prepared this post as a way of responding to some of the areas of concern raised by those she has been speaking to.
In my conversations with UK citizens living in Spain, it has become clear that there are several key areas of concern:
- The Right to Remain (and pensions and health cover)
- Overseas Voting Rights
- Carer’s Allowance and Disability Living Allowance
- Winter fuel allowance
I have compiled the below from a variety of what I hope are reliable sources, but with the caveat that the quality of the information depends on who is circulating it.
In respect to Brexit, the current agreement on citizens’ rights:
- allows for pensions to still be able to be paid overseas
- you will have the right to remain as long as you are legally resident in Spain on 29thMarch 2019
- reciprocal healthcare is agreed; if you have an S1 from the UK or will get one when you retire you’ll still have your healthcare funded by the UK
- UK pensions will be uprated in accordance with inflation and aggregation of social security contributions including pensions is agreed, both before and after Brexit day.
Overseas Voting Rights
Many UK citizens living in the EU27 are annoyed that having been out of the country for longer than 15 years, they no longer have the right to vote. Extending the vote for life was a Conservative Manifesto promise in 2015 & 2017. There is a private members’ bill currently progressing through the House of Commons on this matter. This would make provision to extend the basis on which British citizens outside the UK qualify to participate in parliamentary elections. You can also read here the House of Commons Briefing paper on this topic.
For anyone interested in the wider context, Michaela and Chantelle have written about the overseas vote and how this is located within the context of other questions relating to parliamentary representation and who gets to vote in the UK.
Carer’s Allowance and Disability Living Allowance
These benefits are currently being transferred to Personal Independence Payments – https://www.gov.uk/pip – and the DWP are gradually moving people over who are currently in receipt of disability living allowance onto these payments. They advise that they will be in touch with people about this – https://www.gov.uk/dla-disability-living-allowance-benefit.
In respect to Brexit, provision for the continuation of these exportable benefits for those already in receipt of them will be written into the withdrawal bill.
Winter fuel allowance
The full explanation of who is eligible for the winter fuel allowance can be found on the government website https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment/eligibility. As they stress, despite the fact that this is an exportable benefit, ‘You can’t get the payment if you live in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal or Spain because the average winter temperature is higher than the warmest region of the UK’. To our knowledge there are no bills currently going through parliament that would see this changed.
To confirm, there has been no comprehensive decision yet about
- continuing rights of free movement
- continuing recognition of (some) qualifications and enjoyment of economic rights across the EU27, and
- rights of future family reunification.
Author Bio: Karen has been a regular visitor to Spain for research purposes since 1993. She is author of numerous books and papers about migration (especially British emigration), including: The British on the Costa del Sol (2000); Lifestyle Migration (2009, with Michaela Benson), International Migration and Social Theory (2012), and Lifestyle Migration and Colonial Traces in Malaysia and Panama (2018, with Michaela Benson).