This short article was written in response to a request from the Mercury Newspaper
The ability of people to travel freely around the EU is one of its key principles. Millions of us enjoy the benefits, from lower costs of flights on our European holidays, to an EU-wide deal with mobile phone companies, which has capped the cost of phone and text costs for all of us.
But what about healthcare when we are travelling in another EU country?
Because we’re part of the EU, we have the right to carry the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles us all to the main health services that we may need whilst abroad. So the EHIC offers real benefits to us all, freeing us from the fear of having to wrestle with local healthcare rules and access, if we fall ill. Were we to leave the EU, we’d lose the benefits of these arrangements and we don’t know what would happen instead. The Government would have to negotiate with the 27 EU countries to try and agree a different set of arrangements. We don’t know if all countries would agree, nor what the terms of the agreements would be. We could end up with several different agreements, affecting both the availability and cost of travel insurance, especially for older people.
Alternatively, we could do this under an agreement to re-join the Single Market, but only if we agreed to the free movement of people. So those campaigning to ‘Leave’ need to explain what would happen in practice. After all, over one million Brits live in Spain alone. What will they do?
Some people have raised the issue of child benefits. In truth it’s a relatively small issue, representing £27million out of a total UK Child Benefit budget of £11,700 million. However because our system is more generous, the Prime Minister rightly felt that the system should change, so that the rate received is set at the local rates, where the child resides. This seems fair and will further reduce the cost to UK taxpayers even further.