Global News are reporting that applications to emigrate to Canada by British citizens increased sharply after last June’s Brexit referendum decision to leave the European Union, figures released by the federal immigration department show.
Nigel Nelson is a regular contributor to Brits in Toronto, and is a member of the non-profit Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP), and a Director of the (also) non-profit International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP).
Here’s his latest thoughts on Brexit and pensions in Canada. All views are the CABP’s and Brits in Toronto does not endorse them and is not held liable in any way. As always, do your due diligence.
I was talking with my good friend James (real person, but name changed) the other day and he wasn’t very happy. But first let me tell you a little bit about James. He has spent his whole retirement living here in Ontario — he is 83 and first started drawing his UK State Pension in 1998.
At that time he was paid £64.60/week, which in those days meant he was getting about $150/week; this was when gas cost 52 cents/litre, and a loaf of bread cost just $1.30.
Today, because of the UK’s “frozen” pension policy, James is still getting £64.60/week, which immediately after the Brexit vote converted to $110/week ($40/week less than he was getting in 1998) — the British pound instantly fell 18% against the loonie. Meanwhile the cost of gas has gone up to 94 cents/litre ($1.15/litre in Western Canada), and a loaf of bread is now nearly $3. How can anybody be expected to live on 110 bucks a week?
James’ UK State Pension has fallen in real terms because the UK Government steadfastly refuses to annually uprate pensions for UK pensioners living in Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia. The rate of inflation in Canada has increased and “frozen” pensioners continue to lose pace with the cost of living. How can that be right?
You can imagine what James said to me the other week when I told him that if he had retired to the southern side of Niagara Falls, in the USA, rather than the northern side in Ontario, or even if he had stayed in the UK, then he would have received about an extra $46,000 in pension money since he retired. What he said to me cannot be printed here!
James is not the only UK pensioner who is feeling the pinch. The CBC Vancouver radio station recently contacted the CABP as part of its research on the immediate effect of Brexit on UK pensioners living in Canada.
The UK State Pension is paid every four weeks and many pensioners cannot afford to pick and choose when they convert their sterling into Canadian dollars. They need the money as soon as possible because for some it is their only source of income. This means that they are hostages to fortune with regard to exchange rates — they have to take what is available on the day.
The graph below shows the fall in the £ against C$ over the last three months, especially the dramatic fall the day after the Brexit vote:
These rates are mid market rates at best; the rate received by pensioners is often a couple of cents less than shown in the graph above. This has hit UK pensioners living in Canada very hard and it’s also a similar story in Australia.
Brexit will have a significant impact on the “frozen” pensions issue. The UK is only legally obliged to pay the annual increase to pensioners who live in the European Economic Area (EEA), Gibraltar or Switzerland or countries that have a social security agreement with the UK that allows for cost of living increases to the State Pension. The EEA includes all EU countries plus three other countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
There are over 400,000 UK Pensioners living in the EU and over half of them live in EU countries that had pre-existing (i.e. prior to them joining the EU) social security agreements with the UK, which may now come back into force post-Brexit.
However, the other half live in EU countries where, like Canada, there have never been social security agreements that facilitate annual uprating of the UK State Pension.
If the UK is able to negotiate to join the EEA, like Norway — without being part of the EU — then one presumes annual uprating will then be restored to all EEA/EU countries.
However, one of the tenets of the EEA is free movement of people and so it is not clear how the UK would be able to join EEA as opposition to free movement of people is thought to be the main reason for the “Leave” vote of Brexit.
Regardless, the UK will not be able to ignore the new “frozen” pensioners in the EU. There are over 150,000 UK pensioners living in Canada who are hoping that whatever the UK Government does for the new “frozen” pensioners in the EU then they will do the same for those living everywhere in the world.
There can be no just or legal basis for treating the EU “frozen” pensioners any differently from the other “frozen” pensioners around the world! It is time to bring this unfair and immoral practice to an end, and then maybe my friend James can smile again.
On a separate issue, the CABP has recently been talking to the folks at CARP with a view to tackling some common issues that we have.
Nigel can be reached via e-mail at nigel AT britishpensions DOT COM.
CIC News carries a nice article today on how many Brits are looking towards Canada as the immigration destination of choice after the UK voted to leave the EU last week.
Some highlights of the article …
“As the results began to come in last week, and as it became clear that the ‘Leave’ option was edging out ‘Remain,’ Google reported an enormous spike in the UK for the search ‘move to Canada.'”
“Most new immigrants to Canada arrive under one of its many economic immigration programs. … There are programs for skilled workers at the federal level and in each of the provinces. A major advantage for English-speaking candidates is that English proficiency is deemed to be a highly desirable commodity for these programs, many of which are points-based, requiring candidates to reach a point threshold in order to become eligible.”
“Other options for working in Canada include being hired by a Canadian employer and obtaining a temporary work permit, or coming to Canada as an intra-company transferee. Many people who eventually settle in Canada permanently initially arrived with temporary work status.”
They even link to a handy free online assessment to find out if you are eligible for any of over 60 Canadian immigration programs.
The full article is here, highly recommended.
It was a long night fuelled by Horlicks and Jaffa Cakes that kept the Brits in Toronto crew going as the UK voted to leave the European Union.
We are stunned and think it is a huge mistake.
The fallout has already started, with stock markets and the value of the pound plummeting, a second Scottish independence vote already being called for and Prime Minister David Cameron to step down by October.
The world is in shock, the shit is hitting the fan and we have no idea what comes next. The plain uncertainty of how the future will unfold over the next few years is troubling and worrisome.
The vote was so close — 51.9% Leave, 48.1% Remain — that anyone who says, “The people have clearly spoken …” or words to that effect are wrong. A few percentage points is not “clear.”
Who will be the next Prime Minister? The future of jobs and the economy? Scotland … Wales … Northern Ireland splintering off? What immigration policies will be put in place? Travelling around Europe on an EU passport?
So many questions and too much to take in right now.
From Cameron Perrier: “I’m a reporter with CBC News Network here in Toronto. We’re doing lots of coverage on the Brexit vote today, and wanted to tap into the expat community in Toronto.
“I was wondering if you — or anyone you know in the British expat community — would be willing to come onto our show to speak with one of our hosts?
“I can be reached at cameron DOT perrier AT cbc DOT ca or phone 416-205-3209.”
Good opportunity to have your say while the vote is still taking place!
A referendum is being held on Thursday, June 23 to decide whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union. It’s huge, and the opinions seem very divided either way.
British people love to have their say on the politics of the day, and CBC Radio’s Metro Morning is very keen to speak to some Brits in Toronto on Thursday morning’s show.
Joe Solway is a producer on the show and has asked us to refer possible guests and/or spread the word. We’re very happy to help do that, so please contact Joe ASAP if you are keen to offer an opinion.
E-mail joe DOT solway AT cbc DOT ca or phone him directly on 416-205-5706.