A Government document seen by the Daily Telegraph claims Brussels is refusing to let EU countries engage with each other so health arrangements for British nationals in the bloc can be put in place. Currently, European Union citizens with a right to live in the UK can claim benefits in the country just like British nationals do. Britain has already said those citizens will continue to be provided with access to the NHS and welfare if no Brexit deal is agreed with the EU.
But Brussels has stopped short of offering a similar guarantee for British expats and has not committed to providing the healthcare benefits which they already have access to.
The UK wants Brussels to extend the current agreement until the end of the proposed post-Brexit transition period in December 2020.
Britain has also been trying to revive deals with individual countries which were agreed before current laws were introduced.
The Government memo reveals the UK has these agreements in place with 20 European countries, which “have never been formally terminated”.
But according to papers to be discussed by the Cabinet’s Brexit sub-committee on Monday, the European Commission has told members states to “refrain from bilateral agreements or discussions with the UK, which would undermine EU unity”.
Government officials fear if there isn’t a breakthrough in this impasse, British workers in the EU will have to continue to make social security payments in the UK.
This would also be in addition to making pamenyts in the country in which they live.
The papers state Health Secretary Matt Hancock has written to his counterparts throughout the bloc in a desperate attempt to find a breakthrough in this deadlock.
The advice to ministers says: “Without reciprocal arrangements we will be protecting the social security position of EU nationals unilaterally.
“This will mean that workers may have to pay social security contributions in the UK and a MS for the same period and that the UK will continue to export child benefits, but member states will not have to export their child benefits to the UK.”
They continue: “Reciprocal healthcare is part of social security coordination, and the most critical element to protect for UK nationals in the EU.
“Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, has written to his equivalents in member states to press for engagement.”
“An agreement should be sought at EU level to continue to apply the current social security co-ordination rules until the end of December 2020.