- Good news for British expats in Europe as Withdrawal Agreement guarantees their State Pensions will not be frozen.
- Government should now reassure these pensioners that, whatever happens after 2020, they have lifelong state pension uprating.
- However this is only for expats already in Europe by year-end.
- Government must warn people of the risk that future retirees who move to Spain, France or other European countries after 2020 may have their pension frozen.
This note deals with the question of State Pension payments after Brexit for people who already retired to France, Spain or another European country – and those who may want to do so in future. The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the Government and now approved by Parliament, means Brexit happens on 31st January. We then enter a so-called Implementation Period which effectively allows for ‘standstill’ arrangements up to December 2020, during which we try to negotiate a future relationship on an enormous range of issues. Many of these impinge importantly on people’s lives. Government must explain to the public what is going on.
Current expat pensioners in Europe are guaranteed lifelong State Pension uprating: The Government’s Withdrawal Agreement has negotiated reciprocal rights for State Pensions to increase in line with those paid in the UK. A few months ago, the Department for Work and Pensions warned that expat British pensioners in other European countries might lose annual increases to their state pensions if Britain left the EU without a deal. It committed to paying the annual increases for three years after a no-deal Brexit but gave no guarantees after that. These people’s fears of having their pensions frozen can now be allayed.
Government must quickly reassure them to put their minds at rest: I hope the Government will quickly make sure these people know the good news that those already living in Europe can relax, as they will receive increases on their state pensions for life.
This protection only applies to expats living in Europe before end-2020: This protection of State Pension uprating will also apply during the transition period too. So anyone who moves to Spain, France or another European country before the end of 2020 will also be covered by the same guarantee. That will be good news for those people too, but it is vital to explain clearly what is agreed.
The Withdrawal Agreement does not cover those who retire to Europe after 2020: The Government says it is aiming to agree reciprocal arrangements with the EU for the next phase of our departure. But if it fails to do so by year-end, and the Implementation Period is not extended, future expats could see their State Pensions frozen.
They may join the ranks of over half a million British frozen pensioners around the world: More than 500,000 British pensioners live in one of the 120 Countries which do not have a formal reciprocal agreement and their UK state pensions have been frozen. Many of these live in former Commonwealth nations such as Australia, Canada, South Africa or New Zealand and even the Falkland Islands. British pensioners living there receive the same State Pension as the day they left the UK. Those retiring to other countries, including the US, Jamaica and the Philippines are uprated, and the 650,000 or so British expats living in European countries also receive annual State Pension increases. A major campaign on behalf of the frozen pensioners, who have lost all the Court challenges on this issue, has tried for many years to achieve uprating, but successive Governments have consistently refused.
Urgent need to tell people: I am delighted that there is now protection for the 650,000 or so worried British expats living in European countries. I also hope that the next phase of Brexit will agree reciprocity by end 2020. But, in order to give people a fair chance to protect themselves, the Government must explain the risk of frozen State Pensions for future expats.