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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

EU to safeguard citizens’ social security contributions in case of ‘no deal’

13 March 2019

This afternoon, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of the continued recognition of citizens’ social security contributions and acquired entitlements in the case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

In total, 652 cross-party MEPs passed the regulation, while just 8 voted against. A further 18 MEPs chose to abstain, including a number of UK members such as Nigel Farage and Gerard Batten.

The co-rapporteurs on the rapport were Jean Lambert (UK, Greens/EFA) and Marian Harkin (Ireland, ALDE).

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the regulation will safeguard entitlements to social security benefits based on insurance, employment or residence acquired before the UK’s exit from the EU. Read the full text here.

These contingency measures would apply to EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU27, who have acquired social entitlements while exercising their free movement rights. It means citizens’ contribution history will still be counted by EU Member States, and guarantees they do not lose these 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 without a withdrawal agreement in place.

Jean Lambert, London’s Green MEP and co-rapporteur on the regulation, said:

“Given that the UK Government has failed to offer concrete guarantees on citizens’ rights, I’m very pleased to be able to provide a small piece of reassurance to people caught up in this Brexit mess. The safety net we have provided today will ensure the contributions in the UK will still be counted by the EU27 if the UK leaves without a deal.

While this regulation covers the essentials of social security rights, it does not touch on other important protections such as reciprocal healthcare and continued rights for posted workers. Providing safeguards on these issues would require cooperation with the UK Government. This regulation is in place for a situation where there would be no cooperation with the UK, which would be the reality of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

We hope this contingency regulation will bring some peace of mind to the 5 million citizens whose lives have been thrown into limbo due to Brexit.”


In the case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, there will be no transition period and EU law on social security coordination will no longer apply in the relations between the EU and the UK. Under this new contingency regulation, Member States will be required to recognise contributions and entitlements gained up until the exit date and ensure that both UK and EU citizens do not lose out on historic rights. The expectation is that the UK reciprocates – although this isn’t required for the EU to continue with this legislation.

What is included?
There is a need to ensure that those persons who exercised, as EU citizens, their right to free movement within the EU before the withdrawal date, maintain their social security entitlements acquired before the withdrawal date.

What is not included?
As the UK will be a third country, other principles and rights of social security coordination will not continue to apply as of the withdrawal date, such as the exportability of cash benefits, the continuous provision of sickness benefits in kind (EHIC), and the rules on applicable legislation (going to an EU Member State for work purposes). This contingency regulation only ensures those matters the EU can unilaterally guarantee without cooperation with the UK, namely the social security entitlements of persons who exercised their right to free movement prior to the withdrawal date. The Withdrawal Agreement ensures many more rights and has the benefit of a transition period.