Friday, November 17, 2017

The EHIC post Brexit: The devil is in the detail

The House of Lords Home Affairs Committee has a sub-committee on the EU. It is an extremely impressive group, chaired by a former head of the diplomatic service, and with a former chief executive of the NHS among its numbers. I was asked to give evidence on the prospects for retaining the European Health Insurance Card post Brexit. What other arrangements does the EU have with third countries? Are there arrangements from before we joined the EU that we could revive?
This involved a lot of homework - for example, dredging through the National Archives to find ancient treaties. That was a fascinating exercise. Several were with countries that no longer exist, such as Czechoslovakia (although in that case it seems that David Davis is unaware that it split in two in 1993), Yugoslavia, and the USSR. The wording revealed how far we have come. Many of the treaties talked of how, if a national of one country was residing in another, he would be entitled to something, as would his wife.  Clearly, the possibility of a woman ever working abroad was unimaginable to them.
I've written a blog about what I discovered on the BMJ website. But to cut a long story short, it is clear that, once again, UK ministers are living in cloud cuckoo land. Their remarks reveal a profound ignorance of even the most basic aspects of how the EU works. I cannot see any prospect of retaining the EHIC given the UK government's red lines.
No wonder our European neighbours are now planning for the worst. Until now, they persisted in the belief that the UK government could not be so stupid. But now they realise that it is. And it is both tragic and embarrassing.

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