MEPs approve citizens’ social benefits retention in no-deal Brexit

MEPs have approved measures that mean EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU27 will keep their social benefits acquired before withdrawal in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Photo Credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

28 Feb 2019

The text, adopted by Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee, aims to safeguard entitlements to social security benefits based on insurance, employment or residence acquired before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

These contingency measures would apply to the estimated 3.5m EU citizens living in the UK and 1.5m UK citizens living in one of the 27 Member States who have acquired social entitlements due to the free movement of people and guarantee they do not lose those entitlements in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The measures will be adopted unilaterally by the EU and enter into force only if the UK leaves the EU with no withdrawal agreement in place.


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MEPs also required the European Commission to draw up a report to assess how the measures have been implemented one year after application of the regulation and submit it to Parliament and Council.

Reaction to the committee vote was swift, with co-rapporteur, Jean Lambert, a Greens/EFA member, saying: “This is the bare minimum that we can do in this situation. Entirely regrettable that we have to deal with contingency legislation at all.”

“This is the bare minimum that we can do in this situation. Entirely regrettable that we have to deal with contingency legislation at all” Jean Lambert MEP

“Citizens' rights have always been a priority for the European Parliament. This contingency legislation at least establishes the bare bones of social security rights and entitlements for people finding themselves in a very difficult situation,” she added.

Lambert’s fellow co-rapporteur, Marian Harkin (ALDE, IE) said: “Europeans who have exercised their right to free movement must not become collateral damage in any Brexit scenario.”

“The European Commission is committed to bringing forward necessary legislation to bridge any gaps and ensure that those who exercised their right to free movement do not lose out post-Brexit,” Harkin added.

“Europeans who have exercised their right to free movement must not become collateral damage in any Brexit scenario” Marian Harkin MEP

The agreed measures, adopted by 36 to 1 with no abstentions, will need to be confirmed by a vote in the 11-14 March plenary session and the legislation needs to be published before the date of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

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