15 Feb 2019

Brexit: Diocese gets support at Westminster

Bishop Robert has welcomed support to the Diocese from Dame Caroline Spelman MP in the latest House of Commons debate on Brexit.

In the debate on 14 February, Dame Caroline Spelman, Second Church Estates Commissioner, highlighted on the floor of the House, concerns raised by UK nationals living in the other EU countries within the Diocese in Europe.  They are estimated to number around 1 million. 

In her speech, Dame Caroline pressed Government Ministers on healthcare in a no deal situation.  She called on Ministers to clarify plans regarding the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) currently held by 27 million UK citizens, covering 50M visits to the continent last year. EHIC for UK nationals is set to become invalid on 29 March, if there's no deal.

She also raised the future of healthcare payments to UK nationals.  Currently reciprocity applies by which the NHS is able to reimburse patients for treatment with an S1 certificate in a European Economic Area country (which covers the whole of the EU plus Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland). As per EHIC, this would also become invalid on 29 March in a no deal. 

In her speech, Dame Caroline cited the health condition of a 91-year old man in an Italian nursing home, whose UK-based son has just had a letter from the Italian authorities to say that they will no longer pay for his father’s care from 30 March if there is no deal.  And she raised another case of a young man living and working in France who has HIV, and who has received a letter to say that he will have to pay for his own antiretroviral treatment on 30 March.  Dame Caroline also highlighted the position of pensioners living in Spain, whose inability to afford healthcare might force them to return to the UK.

She said she was awaiting a reply from Health Ministers on how legislation to apply alternative arrangements in all 27 EU countries in a no deal, and asked in the debate among MPs “will other countries hosting UK citizens have legislated in their Parliaments to protect them? These are real people and real lives. Sick and vulnerable people have become caught up in the Brexit turmoil, and they need answers.” 

Bishop Robert said:

"I thank warmly Dame Caroline for her latest speech in Parliament. I welcome her support on Brexit and healthcare in a no deal. It highlights precisely the kinds of deep concerns people right across the other 27 EU countries in the Diocese in Europe are raising.   

He added:

We are organising regular meetings and discussions across the Diocese, and will continue to keep in close touch with our people. The Anglican Church needs to show it cares about people’s lives in the midst of uncertainty about Brexit which, just over 40 days away from 29 March, is becoming paralysing."

View Dame Caroline’s speech. Search for time code 14.51