The Liberal Democrats have pushed the Conservative Government to admit that Ministers have not secured any bilateral health agreements with EU member states in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
In a response to a parliamentary question from Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, Health Minister Stephen Hammond MP could not confirm any agreements have been made to ensure British citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK would have the same access to medical cover.
Mr Hammond could only confirm that the UK and Irish Governments have “firm intentions to maintain the Common Travel Area and to protect the associated reciprocal rights”.
The revelation will add further woes to UK citizens intending to travel across the EU this summer after a a Liberal Democrat mystery shopper exercise recently uncovered several leading travel agents were unable to guarantee cover in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:
“In a no-deal scenario, it is now disturbingly likely that UK citizens will have no medical cover in most, if not all, of the EU countries.
“With many people already having booked travel to the EU for after 29th March, we need urgent clarification from the Government of what action UK travellers need to take, including whether they should be taking out expensive travel insurance.
“This is particularly worrying as most of the large travel insurance firms are not able to confirm whether their insurance will be valid in the case of no-deal.
“Conservative Ministers do not need to hold British travellers at ransom. They can instead take no-deal off the table and give the public the final say with a People’s Vote so that we can get out of this mess once and for all.”
Please see Mr Brake’s written question and response below.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, which EU countries the Government has secured bilateral health agreements with in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. (216905)
Answer (Stephen Hammond):
We want to secure reciprocal arrangements bilaterally with Member States in a ‘no deal’ scenario, so that no-one faces sudden changes to how they obtain healthcare.
The United Kingdom and Irish Governments have both set out their firm intention to maintain the Common Travel Area and to protect the associated reciprocal rights enjoyed by UK and Irish nationals when in each other’s state, including access to healthcare services, whatever the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Bilateral work with Ireland in this area is at an advanced stage.
The UK has approached and is in ongoing discussions with other Member States about protecting access to healthcare bilaterally, through reciprocal arrangements.