Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Published in Poland

The article below was written by Professor Tim Clapham of Warsaw University, translated into Polish and published in the Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, a quality broadsheet newspaper.
It is an example of  the influence British people  have with their neighbours.
If the British Government could honour the British Abroad. Then they in turn could exhibit a pride in their relationship with the 'homeland' . Reward would be great for Britain.
The article is written to be read by Polish people.

Give us a vote your Majesty!
What would you think if you heard of a country that deprived its citizens of a vote merely because they have lived outside the national boundary for a certain period of time. For example depriving a Polish citizen living in Berlin of that democratic right because he or she had lived there for fifteen years, That citizen may have retired to Berlin to be close to their children yet their pension may continue to be paid by the Polish government. Perhaps  the citizen fell  in love and moved to Berlin to live with a partner. Perhaps there were no jobs in their part of Poland and they were effectively forced to move. The number of reasons why people may choose to live outside their own country are many and in today’s world it no longer represents a fundamental break with one’s home country.
 Indeed no significant democratic country considers it acceptable to deprive citizens of the fundamental right to elect a Government world purely on the grounds of a citizen living outside the national boundary. Governments have to accept responsible for the rights of their citizens as they  are ultimately responsible for determining that persons status in the world. Or most Europeans would think so. After all what is the difference between living in France or the UK for a UK citizen, it is even easier and quicker to get to London from Paris than it is from Edinburgh to London.
Oh Dear, It’s the Brits Again
There is however an exception and that is the United Kingdom. A country that boasts of its democratic credentials, contains the mother of Parliaments, has a rather nice Queen and very good beer ( now that proves I am English through and through,  what other nationality likes warm bitter beer with no bubbles).  Yet next year I will deprived of the vote as I will have lived outside the UK for more than fifteen years. I should mention that I pay taxes and pension contributions  to  the UK, I will receive a UK pension, I have close  family living in England (sons and grandchildren if you are interested), I have economically contributed to the UK in very many ways over the years. And of course many aspects of my life are controlled or influenced by decisions of whatever bunch of politicians control Parliament. Inheritance, decisions to go to war, access to health care, divorce, bank accounts, financial services, travel rights and so on and so on.
Last week one of the indomitable fighters for the right to vote Margaret Hales visited Warsaw drumming up support for a campaign to secure full rights for British citizens abroad (www.votes-for-expat-brits.com). Margaret Hales MBE (just in case you thought that the British Empire was history, that tag means Member of the Order of the British Empire) received the honour for public service in that part of the Empire known as Milton Keynes which is a new town just outside London. , She and her husband decided to retire to Spain and would you believe she will now be deprived of a vote, so even the favour of the Queen doesn’t stop you being deprived of a fundamental democratic right.
The Charm of Royalty
Incidentally Margaret told us a rather amusing story about the time she received the Honour. She and other recipients were in the rather fine art gallery in Buckingham Palace prior to receiving their award. They were addressed by a flunkey wearing metres of gold braid who informed them of the protocol such as what to call the various royals who would be present etc. It was around the time of the Charles, Diana imbroglio and the country had taken sides those for Charles and those for Diana. They were informed that Prince Charles was doing the honours . In front of Margaret was a rather strong willed female peace fighter from Northern Ireland who, on hearing  that Prince Charles would be honouring the recipients, went ballistic threatening to reject the award , tell Prince Charles what was what etc. She was calmed down, went in to receive her honour  and came out of the ceremony a changed person telling everybody just what a charming, thought and lovely man he was. Clearly they have some magical Royal dust to sprinkle around at such times.
Ignoring the disenfranchised voteless
But back to the fundamental  injustice being perpetrated by the UK. There are over 5 million British borne citizens around the world with some 1.5 million in Europe. Now not all will necessarily want to have a continuing relationship with the UK but all will be disenfranchised citizens after fifteen years unless they decide to adopt the nationality of their host Country. It places British citizens in a dilemma which is normally resolved by their ignoring their loss of political rights rather than adopt a new nationality.   In a globalising world therefore we have a growing number of citizens of a democratic county without a vote.
This is not acceptable and it is not purely an academic issue. The lack of political rights means that the interests of millions of people are being ignored.  In a couple of years there will be a referendum as to whether the UK will stay in or leave the EU. Many of the 1.5 million will have no say in something that is of vital concern to them and their families. The present government is currently attacking the rights of overseas British citizens to receive a winter fuel payment (it was an indirect way of increasing what is one of Europe’s lowest state pensions) they are also attacking the health arrangements for those citizens. It is worth remembering that many Brits like to retire to Europe after a lifetime in the UK as their pensions can go further and they represent a net saving for the British Health and Social security systems. Yet this and the significant contribution of UK citizens abroad to the UK economy can  be safely ignored by our British politicians as those overseas citizens are politically voiceless.
It need not be the case. French overseas citizens even have direct Parliamentary  representation and a number of other EU states are set to follow this route. Even Poland may face this demand in the not distant future. It’s a logical corollary to the free movement of citizens in the EU and the fluid global world in which we now live. For effective democracy a precondition  has to be the right to vote wherever you live and however long you have been there.
So my Polish readers the next time you hear a British politician talking about democratic rights and the importance of free and fair elections in some unfortunate part of the world agree, but remember to put some decent perfume on your handkerchief to obscure the stench of hypocrisy.
And so back to Margaret MBE who is fighting the good fight to secure the vote for all of us Brits abroad. She is following in the noble tradition of her ancestor Emile Pankhurst. Over one hundred years ago Ms Pankhurst fought to secure the vote for women. It is fitting that her descendent continues the fight this time for British citizens abroad. And it will be equally successful because the right to vote is fundamental for any country that considers itself a democracy. Good luck with the campaign Margaret.

Tim Clapham  14th October 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Health costs and Democracy for Citizens in Europe

More comment on the Government Green paper
Concerning support for health costs in the EU
An example of why the Britons Abroad  in Europe and elsewhere  need Democratic Representation.
I appreciate the comments by readers of my circulars which have caused me to consider a further analysis of the situation on the costs of health care in Europe.
It involves a digging out of information in the EU regulations.
The consultative Green Paper is entitled
“Sustaining services, ensuring fairness”
A consultation on migrant access and their financial contribution to NHS provision in England.”
1.   This Green Paper was issued in July with a date of August 28th for the return of observations.  This is my immediate concern - The situation is unacceptable that people most affected by certain aspects are given no direct knowledge of this green paper, and no time at all to respond!

2.  The title gives no indication whatsoever that the contents also concern the health costs of British pensioners in the EU.  It is only by rare chance in October that I learned of its existence and quick action ensured that the contents were widely known.   

These concerns were particularly and rightly publicised (especially by The Connexion in France) because of the effect on the health costs of the ‘early retirees’ who would have their support for health care in the wider EU removed. 

Since then I have received comments which result in the analysis below.
The British State Pensioner abroad and treatment under the NHS.
The essence of this analysis is the ability of British State pensioners otherwise resident in other States of the EU to receive treatment under the NHS in Britain.
*See further note below for other British State Pensioners in the rest of the World.
At this present time – if you are a British State Pensioner and have at least 10 years of residence in the UK, but you happen now to be resident abroad, you are NOT entitled to free treatment under the NHS.  However many of us have received treatment in the UK.  Maybe only an eye test, sometimes more. 

[Confusion on this is introduced by the fact that the EHIC –health card – is issued by the UK to all British State Pensioners in the EU.  This card requires the UK to pay the health costs of those travelling to another EU State, which is not their resident State! Thus questioning the situation with regard to visits of pensioners to the UK.
Confusion also exists with the EU law which enables any citizen, retired or not, to travel to another State for treatment if that treatment is not available in one’s State of residence.]

The Green Paper in Annex A makes similar observations to some of the above.  It elsewhere suggests that in future the costing of  health for State pensioners in their resident  State within the EU could be thus affected:-
Clause 6.13  The benefit to the UK of allowing state pensioners to return for their planned treatment would be a discount of 5% from payments to all countries to whom we make lump sum annual payments for our pensioners. “

The second phrase underlined relating to annual payments, refers to the EU Regulation 987/2009  and  to Annex 3 of that regulation.
This lists the States claiming payment for health treatment on the basis of fixed amounts. They are:- IRELAND, SPAIN, ITALY, MALTA, THE NETHERLANDS, PORTUGAL, FINLAND, SWEDEN, UNITED KINGDOM
It is to the countries listed above that the proposal to cut the fixed amount by 5% would apply.
All other countries claim the actual amount  and would not be affected. – e.g France, Belgium, Germany, Cyprus. etc in the EU…  The actual amount is the amount which the State of Residence has to find – not, as I have ascertained, the actual amount for the treatment as charged to the patient pensioner.  So in France the French State asks of Britain something considerably less than the full cost of the treatment to the patient.
The underlined phrase ‘planned treatment’ seems unnecessary. What is the significance of that phrase?

Then we need to look at EU Regulation 883/2004.  Annex IV to that regulation lists certain States where their Pensioner Nationals can return to their native land for health treatment [there is no reference to ‘planned treatment’ nor in the referenced article 27 here] – they are BELGIUM, GERMANY, GREECE, SPAIN, FRANCE, ITALY, LUXEMBOURG, AUSTRIA and SWEDEN.
Note that the United Kingdom is not listed.  The Green Paper would one supposes result in the UK being included in Annex IV. 
One of my correspondents has informed me that this is indeed what the Government is considering.
The result would be that qualifying Pensioners in the EU beyond the UK  could return quite legally to receive treatment under the NHS  and the confusion and uncertainties which has previously existed would be removed.

*Other qualifying  British State Pensioners resident elsewhere in the World would also benefit from a change in the regulations enabling treatment under the NHS on their occasional visits.  

The relationship of all this to the need for Representation in the Westminster Government.
If we had someone to represent us in Government then this rigmarole would not be necessary.  The DoH could consult with the representatives who would seek opinion from certain groups within each country.  A real democracy could come into being.
It is quite wrong in my view that the Government can produce such a ‘green paper’ and be apparently quite incapable of making appropriate contacts with the people most affected.
This is also so patently obvious with regard to the proposed Referendum.  This would affect the British Abroad in Europe very closely and yet are not in line to be consulted.
It is essential that we are Represented.

The address of the DoH is
International Healthcare Team
Department of Health
3rd Floor
Wellington House
133-155 Waterloo Road
London SE1 8UG
Email    migrantaccess@dh.gsi.gov.uk
(Remember that the consultation on the green paper closed on August 28th 2013)
The green paper is viewable at

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Referendum in/out Europe

The in or out referendum of the European Union
British expatriates could find themselves even more cut off from Britain.
Could the electorate in Britain cast one and a half million adrift in Europe?
Will Britain drift away from Europe?      
The majority of the  1.5 million Britons in continental Europe will not be able to vote in any in/out Europe referendum mounted in Britain.
If they could vote they could well ensure that Britain stays in Europe
If they can’t vote then the electors in Britain (and Britain alone) could vote Britain out of Europe.
David Cameron wants a Referendum in 2017 if he is re-elected. . 

Adam Afriyie, MP for Windsor has tabled an amendment to the Referendum Bill  currently before Parliament    
If he succeeds then this referendum will take place next year in 2014.
And the chances of the Britons in Europe having any say at all just about vanish.

If you believe that this is anti-democratic and the Briton in Europe should vote then add your name to the petition below.
 Oddly - the Bill would give special dispensation for members of the HOUSE of LORDS to vote - but no consideration at all for the disenfranchised Briton Abroad.

The British National abroad who does so much promoting true British values abroad is made to feel a foreigner in his own land.