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UK Pensioners Abroad

Volume 613: debated on Monday 11 July 2016

2. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the UK leaving the EU on British pensioners living overseas. (905749)

There will be no immediate changes, as a result of the referendum, in the circumstances of British pensioners. Negotiations for Britain’s future relationship with Europe will begin under the new Prime Minister.

What discussions has the Minister had with European countries about the exchange rate and its effect on pensioners abroad?

As I say, the negotiations proper will begin when we have a new Prime Minister. In the meantime, we have a European unit that has been set up in the Cabinet Office, and it will report to the new Cabinet in due course.

But would it not make sense for the Department for Work and Pensions to do some investigative work now, when there are thousands if not millions of British pensioners living elsewhere in the European Union? Those people currently have free access, for example, to the NHS in their local areas without contributing, but they might suddenly find their finances to be in dire jeopardy and wish to return to this country. Should not the DWP act immediately? Let me gently suggest to the Minister that just waiting as if the new Prime Minister is going to be some way away might be a bit of a mistake?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are working closely with the new European unit set up in the Cabinet Office, to which I referred in my previous answer.

This is about doing what is right. We are talking about British pensioners living overseas who have paid national insurance. Why not remove that uncertainty? Why not guarantee what they are entitled to? It is all about doing the right thing with a new Prime Minister. Let us get off on the right foot and make sure that happens..

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, but we need to have the new Prime Minister in place before those negotiations can start proper.

Is the Minister not aware that the role of pensioners is a very sophisticated and complex one? Many of them depend for support on free access for their relatives in this country and on freedom to travel, as do young people going to places such as Spain to work. Has the Minister not already looked at this in some detail?

As I said, the result of the referendum came only some few days ago, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that detailed conversations are going on in the Cabinet unit. Let me provide him with the further assurance that Britain still remains a member of the EU. I want to reassure British people living in EU countries and those EU citizens who are living in the UK that there will be no immediate changes in their circumstances.