The legal situation in the field of social security following the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU (Brexit).
Following the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU, the CH-EU Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (FMOPA) and Regulations (EC) Nos 883/2004 and 987/2009 on the coordination of social security systems will no longer apply between Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Therefore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have negotiated an agreement on citizens' rights including the protection of acquired rights in the field of social security. The Swiss government has approved this agreement on 19 December 2018.
The agreement will not enter into force as long as the FMOPA is applicable between Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Currently, the FMOPA and Regulations (EC) No 883/2004 and No 987/2009 are still applicable between Switzerland and the United Kingdom. They will continue to apply during a transitional period expected to last until 31 December 2020 (“specified date"). This transitional period will only be definitive when the EU and the United Kingdom approve the withdrawal agreement. This process is still pending.
If the EU and the United Kingdom cannot reach an agreement and a withdrawal occurs on 29 March 2019 ("specified date"), the acquired social security rights will nevertheless remain protected under the FMOPA. For this scenario, the agreement on citizens' rights negotiated between Switzerland and the United Kingdom shall apply mutatis mutandis on 30 March 2019.
The future coordination of social security between Switzerland and the United Kingdom is not yet clear. As soon as the FMOPA is no longer applicable between Switzerland and the United Kingdom, the 1968 bilateral social security agreement suspended by the entry into force of the FMPA, will apply again. Although the old agreement is not an equivalent substitute and only applies to pension insurance, it allows the competence to be determined for contributions and benefits and guarantees the export of pensions.
Main elements of the Agreement between Switzerland and the United Kingdom on the Rights of Citizens in the field of Social Security
The aim of the agreement is to ensure that everything will be as now for the persons currently covered by the FMOPA and that the acquired rights will be protected.
Regulations (EC) No 883/2004 and (EC) No 987/2009 shall continue to apply:
- Swiss nationals residing and working in the United Kingdom on the specified date
- British nationals who live and work in Switzerland on the specified date
- Swiss nationals residing in Switzerland and working in the United Kingdom on the specified date
- British nationals residing in the United Kingdom and working in Switzerland on the specified date
For these persons, nothing changes as long as they are in a cross-border situation, i.e. as long as there is a connection to both states with regard to the nationality, activity or residence.
In concrete terms, this means the following.
The same State remains competent for social security, collects contributions and provides benefits without discrimination. For example, certificates A1 on the applicable social security legislation and the rights attached to it remain in force.
Access to health care is guaranteed on a non-discriminatory basis. In the case of residence in the other State, there is still a right to health care at the expense of the competent State. The European Health Insurance Card remains valid for holidays in the other country.
Family benefits will continue to be paid without restriction to children resident in the other State, including children born after the specified date.
In case of unemployment occurring after the specified date there is an entitlement to unemployment benefit. If necessary, benefits are exported for the permitted period in order to look for a job in the other country.
If you retire after the specified date, you are still entitled to a pension in accordance with national legislation. Insurance periods completed in the the other country are taken into account for the fulfilment of the minimum insurance period and the pension continues to be paid without restriction even in case of residence to the other country. In this case, health insurance cover is also guaranteed by one of the two states.
Disability pensions are also paid in the case of residence in the other state and survivors' pensions are also paid to survivors resident in the other state.
Regulations (EC) No 883/2004 and No 987/2009 continue to apply to: certain persons who are not or no longer in a cross-border situation if they have the right to work or reside in the other State. These are, for example, Swiss nationals who go on working in the United Kingdom at the end of their posting or those who give up their employment in the United Kingdom and continue to reside there.
Other situations in which social security protection is guaranteed after the specified date
For persons on holiday in the United Kingdom or in Switzerland on the specified date, the European Health Insurance Card shall continue to apply until the end of their holiday.
Students studying in the other country can still use the European Health Insurance Card even if they continue their studies after the specified date.
Pensioners who receive a pension from one State on the specified date and who reside in the other State and are entitled to reimbursement of healthcare provided by the State paying the pension are still entitled to this reimbursement. Persons who are entitled to a pension based on the aggregation of insurance periods from both countries are still subject to the rules laid down in Regulations (EC) No 883/2004 and (EC) No 987/2009 concerning sickness insurance.
Planned treatments started before the specified date may be continued after the specified date and will be reimbursed.
For persons who are not in a cross-border situation on the specified date but were previously covered by social insurance in the United Kingdom or Switzerland, the periods of insurance completed before and after the specified date are taken into account for the acquisition of a Swiss or a British pension. Their pensions can also be exported to the other country.
Persons who are not in a cross-border situation on the specified date but who are entitled to family benefits for children residing in the other country are still entitled to family benefits.
Further implications of BREXIT in the field of social security.
The end of the application of Regulations (EC) No 883/2004 and (EC) No 987/2009 between Switzerland and the United Kingdom has further consequences for the application of national social security legislation. Then, depending on the scenario, the United Kingdom will be considered a non-EU state on 1 January 2021 or 30 March 2019.
In this case, persons who move to the United Kingdom and have been insured with the Swiss AHV for at least five years without interruption at the time of departure from Switzerland would be able to join the voluntary AHV/IV again.
The current restriction on the payment of the BVG departure benefit when leaving Switzerland for an EU Member State would no longer apply when leaving for the United Kingdom.