October 7, 2016
Dear Mr Jones
I refer to your article published today on health provision for UK citizens living in Spain.
In 1974, in force 1 April 1975, a bilateral treaty on social security was signed by Spain and the UK. A copy of this treaty is attached, copied from the FCO Treaty website. On Page 24 you will note that under Article 1(a) anyone receiving health care will have the funding paid by their own government, to receive such care at the same standard as offered to people of the residing country. Article 3 declares this to be indefinite. Since 1975 we have had in force a stand-alone system supported, now, by the S1 form system. This treaty is outside the EU framework.
When the EU made provision for all their citizens to receive emergency health care by way of the Form E111, now the European Health Insurance Card, it was not to be used for continual and residential purposes.
It would seem that your article may be a little misleading as it infers that the current bilateral agreement is ineffective and new agreements must be tabled as part of Brexit. I suggest this is not correct and perhaps the wrong message is being delivered, and those being questioned, by those unaware of Treaty Series 69 (1974).
I accept that if we wish to keep the benefits of the EHIC after Brexit then THIS must be negotiated – after all we’re talking about state-sponsored health INSURANCE. However, for the peace of mind of all those residing permanent UK citizens retired to Spain, I feel it would be appropriate for you to point out to them that the existing arrangements should continue under the terms of Treaty 69.
Additionally, recent evidence of the treaty still being observed was when Spain imposed a 10% contribution towards prescriptions and UK pensioners also had to comply. This confirms the Article 1 (a) statement. When Valencia removed the 10%, it also applied to UK pensioners.
The PM has stated she wishes to continue with current social security arrangements for all EU citizens currently resident in the UK, providing that the same conditions continue for all UK citizens currently within the EU. However, this bilateral treaty predates the EU social security arrangements, and is likely to remain, whatever new agreements Brexit negotiations deliver.
Link to the UK FCO Treaty site where the treaty can be downloaded and read: http://treaties.fco.gov.uk/treaties/treatyrecord.htm?tid=10075
Thank you for your letter, which we will print in the next edition of the paper, as it is very important to have as much debate as possible on this issue and any others relating to Brexit.
I can only say that all this is in the hands of the politicians. They will decide in the negotiations how to proceed. Foreign minister García-Margallo is under the impression that healthcare provision for British pensioners in Spain could be ended by the UK government. He was seeking to bring the issue into the public domain, and no doubt lean on Theresa May’s government. The Tories may, or may not, decide to do away with funding for healthcare for British pensioners living in EU countries. If they do, then I would suggest that there could be a legal challenge based on your findings. It is early days, but we all need to be aware of what is being debated and what is at stake, so pressure can be brought to bear on those at the negotiating table.
Cheers, Dave Jones