Brexit: What would it mean for UK pensioners living in Europe?

Which European countries have the most UK pension claimants?

If you are entitled to a UK state pension, you can claim it wherever you live in the world.

If you live in the UK, your state pension is uprated every year in line with the triple lock, which means it rises by whichever is highest of average earnings, inflation or 2.5%.

That is also the case if you live in the 27 other EU countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

If Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement goes through, uprating will continue in those countries.

The government has said that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, it will continue to uprate state pension payments to people living in those countries in 2019 and 2020.

In later years, it will only uprate pensions if it has a reciprocal arrangement either with the whole of the EU or with each of the individual countries so that their state pensioners living in the UK also receive annual upratings.

The Department for Work and Pensions told Reality Check: “Insisting on reciprocal arrangements has been government policy for over 70 years and will continue to be so.”


This is not a problem for people claiming the UK state pension in the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland, who will benefit from uprating whether or not there is a deal, the latter as a result of the deal already done with the Swiss.

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The UK already has reciprocal arrangements with a number of countries outside the EU, including the USA, Turkey, Jamaica and Israel, which mean that UK state pensions get uprated for people living there.

It is that sort of deal that would have to be done with European countries.


Another complication from Brexit is that at the moment someone could work for 10 years in the UK, 10 years in France and 10 years in Italy, and when they came to retire they could apply for their state pension in the last country where they lived or worked, and the single claim would then be co-ordinated by that country’s authorities.

The withdrawal agreement is supposed to keep that co-ordination going, but if the UK leaves the EU with no deal then it will not be possible without further negotiations.

Similarly, in order to claim the UK state pension at the moment, you have to have made National Insurance contributions for a minimum of 10 years.

But, if you have worked in the UK for seven years, for example, and another European country for at least three years, then you can still claim a UK state pension – your work in another European country gets you over the line.

You would only be paid based on your seven years of eligibility, but you would be able to claim it, which you would not otherwise have been able to do.

Again, under the withdrawal agreement this would continue to be the case, but if the UK leaves with no deal then further negotiations would be needed.

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