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Britons could lose rights to urgent treatment in EU after Brexit, peers warn

Lords committee says ending freedom of movement could jeopardise reciprocal healthcare arrangements.

Millions of Britons could lose their rights to urgent medical treatment while travelling in the EU after Brexit, a parliamentary committee has warned.

The Lords EU Committee said there was no guarantee British nationals would be able to continue to access the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme once Britain has left the EU.

Ministers have said they want to continue existing reciprocal healthcare arrangements – including the EHIC which provides for free or reduced cost treatment in the EU, the three European Economic Area nations and Switzerland.

However the committee said the current arrangements were based on the free movement of people which ministers are pledged to end when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

“In the absence of an agreement on future relations that covers this topic, the rights to reciprocal healthcare currently enjoyed by 27 million UK citizens, thanks to the EHIC, will cease after Brexit,” it said.

“Without more detail from the Government about how exactly it intends to maintain reciprocal healthcare arrangements or provide a suitable replacement, this report argues that we should not take the future of UK-EU reciprocal healthcare for granted.

“Because reciprocal healthcare benefits derive from freedom of movement, we agree …  that it is difficult to square the Government’s ambitions for reciprocal healthcare with its stated aim of ending freedom of movement of people from the EU.”

Lord Jay of Ewelme, the chairman of the EU home affairs sub-committee, said: “One of the primary aims of the EU’s reciprocal healthcare arrangements is to support free movement by eliminating the financial or bureaucratic barriers that individuals would otherwise face in accessing healthcare.

“These arrangements have brought the greatest benefit to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. We do not wish to see this progress reversed in the future.

“While we applaud the spirit underlying the Government’s ambition to maintain reciprocal healthcare arrangements, including the EHIC, post-Brexit, it is difficult to square this with ending freedom of movement of people from the EU.”

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