Brexit – helping the UK by staying abroad

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May 10, 2016

Before retirement I worked for a large multinational. Like many such companies it was common practice to analyze past and present data on information relevant to our business model.
This analysis was carried out for the purpose of projecting a range of future scenarios. It is from this working background that I make the following observations and I hope that those that have not been denied the right to vote in the referendum, do so, because few will be effected more by the outcome than those that live in mainland Europe.
Historical data tells us of the inherent ideology of a UK Conservative government to cut public spending. This data is well recorded and supported by many. The present incumbents are no exception and some would say that by Conservative standards they are to the ‘right’ of mainstream conservatism. They have brought in the Bedroom Tax and reduced the usage of the EHIC, removed the overseas payment of the Winter Fuel Payment, reduced benefits to the disabled and still the list goes on. It is with this governments’ determination to reduce the public purse still further that concerns me if the UK votes for the Brexit.
As a UK retiree that has lived in Spain for many years my concern centers around two main issues that I think will affect many in the same position as me: healthcare and pensions.
Currently, as UK expats living in Spain, we enjoy many benefits because we are part of the EU. The Spanish health system is free to UK retirees who have obtained their Spanish health cards. We do not need Visas or passports to travel or work across the continent and we are generally fast-tracked through the offices of required documentation.
A report from Whitehall speaks of 2,000,000 expats living and working in the EU, who will lose this benefit should Brexit happen. Bilateral agreements on health might be made but that is by no means a certainty. As most Spaniards that are in the UK are contributing into the system, so are entitled by right to use it. Us retirees are not and we are great in number and greater in need.
The cost of going private to many of us that are long past our retirement date could be prohibitive, especially for those that have pre-existing medical conditions which might preclude their acceptance into the private sector. Could we become part of the savings to the public purse that our government is determined to make?
The PP party in Spain is openly hostile to Gibraltar and recently has raised this hostility to a new level. Foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo has publicly declared that the ‘party’ is over for Gib and that he will never set foot upon the Rock until it is under Spanish control.
The memory of the traffic jams at the border and the attempt to create a toll road for those that enter Gib are still fresh in the minds of many. Spain controls the air space to Gibraltar airport and they have already raised this issue in the European Council. The UK won the day, but was that only because we have a powerful voice in Europe? What would happen if we lost that seat at the decision making process? Many feel that Europe would no longer look upon the UK favorably – and some would do so with open hostility. Would Spain still allow UK flights through its air space to a Gibraltar that it considers its own?
Another concern lies with our State pensions. As UK retirees living in an EU that incorporates the UK, our pensions are secure. Under EU rules the UK cannot differentiate between UK nationals that live in the UK and those of us that live within the EU. We benefit from the annual cost of living increase in the same way as our fellow countrymen back home.
If you email tvp.internationalqueries@dwp.gsi.gov.uk you will see what countries the UK has a reciprocal agreement with. There are only15 outside of the EU. The current system of State pension payments within the EU is the exception and not the norm! Many expats that have gone to live in other areas of the world, like Australia and Canada to name just two, have their pensions paid at a lower level and they never benefit from any annual increase. If we vote for the ‘Brexit’ why should our UK government treat us any different? I think that many of us would find it difficult to live on a State pension that in effect has become ‘frozen’.
One point that both the ‘in’ and ‘out’ camps agree on is that there will be a period of ‘pain’ for the UK. Some think it will only be for a couple of years, others think it could be as much as ten! The rating agencies are predicting a mark downwards in the credit rating of the UK should the ‘Brexit’ happen along with a run on sterling.
The closeness of the vote has caused that, already, we did benefit from a favorable exchange rate which lifted the value of our pensions by 30% or more when converted into euros. But a run on sterling will soon see that disappear.
Our UK government denied us the Winter Fuel Payment when many of us know that in winter it is a necessity more than a luxury. With this inherent need to save costs to the
public purse, our health care and pension costs could be targeted because we no longer contribute to the UK economy and are seen as a drain upon its resources by spending our sterling pensions in euros.
The irony of this argument is that we do contribute to the general wellbeing of the UK simply by virtue of us not being there! We cannot claim any benefits, we ease the burden upon Social Services and our pensions are what we have paid for over many years. Should we be penalized for taking our retirement in a climate that is beneficial to our health?
If many of us are forced to return due to insufficient finances, then upon our return our pensions will be paid in full. There will be many who will claim all the ‘extras’ on the Social Security – and large numbers will need a protected living environment which comes with housing benefit and warden costs paid for by local councils.
Many will claim the free bus pass so that we can get to the hospital and clog up even further an already overstretched health system whilst not forgetting to claim our winter fuel allowance as well!

Keith Rains

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