Davis bigs up expat health card deal

by Luke Lythgoe | 04.09.2017

David Davis seems desperate to show that he has something to show for his months of negotiating with the EU. Despite his failure to make progress on the big issues, he has boasted about minor deals on expats’ rights as “concrete progress”. But a UK document setting out exactly where we and the EU stand shows that the Brexit secretary hasn’t got much to crow about on even these issues.

Take European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC). These currently give UK citizens access to “medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay” in all the other EU countries plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. As of 2015, the UK had 28 million of these cards in circulation. But so far the UK has only secured the extension of health cards for Brits who happen to be in the rest of the EU on the day we quit. That includes residents, students, tourists and workers – but only as long as their status as resident, student or whatever continues.

Davis is correct that this is “good news for British pensioners in the EU”. But it does nothing for the millions of other Brits who use health cards. What’s more, his enthusiasm seems to have misled some to think the EU had caved on the issue. That certainly was the initial view of Mark Wallace, Conservative Home’s executive editor, although he later admitted he’d got it wrong.

The Brexit secretary also bigged up an agreement on other expats’ rights, such as self-employment and recognition of their social security contributions recognised. The EU is currently only willing to protect these rights in the state in which British citizens “have residence rights on exit day”. The UK wants expats to be able to keep their rights if they move to another EU country post Brexit. It’s odd that Davis doesn’t mention this.

The Brexit secretary was, though, largely right about one thing: frontier workers, who currently work in a different country from where they live, will keep the right to do so. But even here he failed to mention that the UK is seeking “clarification” on how a frontier worker is defined.

What’s more, Davis’ minor deals should not distract from the lack of progress on bigger issues. As the EU negotiators like to say: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” If nothing shifts on exit payments, Northern Ireland and the European Court of Justice then all his “concrete progress” will turn to dust.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “Davis bigs up expat health card deal”

  • I presumed the UK health card “success” to be an unimportant minor sign of goodwill from the EU27 that doesn’t really cost them (=us) much.

    Re-interpreting this as a kind of “victory” AGAINST the EU may not go down well with them (=us).

    They (=we) also do read British press and will not appreciate their anti-EU rhetorics and propaganda.
    You still seem to feel very much like “My island is my castle”. It is not.