Tens of thousands of British pensioners living in European Union countries could lose their annual state pension increases as a result of the UK leaving the EU, former pensions minister Ros Altmann has warned.
Altmann (pictured) pointed out the UK government had only agreed to pay pension increases on a reciprocal basis, which would require EU countries to commit to paying British pensioners’ increases, while the UK would pay their ex-pats’ state pensions here.
However, Altmann said, many non-EU countries already refuse this reciprocity. She also noted there is less of an incentive for EU countries to agree to the reciprocal deal because there are far more Brits retiring abroad than there are EU citizens retiring in the UK.
Those living in Spain could be particularly vulnerable, she warned, with 70,000 British people receiving state pensions in Spain, far more than the 62 Spanish pensioners residing in the UK.
“With such a massive imbalance, the temptation for Spain to make demands that our government could find unacceptable is obvious,” she said.
“Evidence cited by the Commons Brexit Select Committee reports there are 190,000 UK pensioners living in Spain, France and Ireland, whereas there are just 5,500 pensioners from the entire EEA living in the UK.
“Such imbalances clearly put any reciprocal arrangements at risk and leave British pensioners exposed to significant losses which were never explained by the Leave campaigns or party manifestos.”
‘Risks never made clear’
Altmann said there had been a long-running campaign to get the UK to agree to increase state pensions in other countries, regardless of the actions of their host nation. That never succeeded, however, she added, and, after a series of court cases, the government’s refusal was upheld.
“The risks to people’s state pensions were never made clear,” Altmann continued. “Failing to explain risks properly, before they make decisions which could impact their pensions, is against the rules, but somehow when it comes to Brexit, many rules of normal practice are overridden.
“Surely it is important that people know what the implications are. But of course it would have been better to explain these in advance to voters. What will people feel when they find out more of these hidden consequences of Brexit? We shall see.”
The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019. With just over eight weeks before Brexit, it is still unclear whether the UK will leave with or without a deal.