Tag Archives: brexit

Brexit: Are we over the line yet?

Brexit door

When one door closes another one stays closed too

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 Past Chair of the (also) non-profit International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP).

Here’s his latest thoughts on pinning the tail on the PM, Brexit, pensioners in Canada who receive the UK State Pension, and the upcoming Canadian election. 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 received an e-mail from British Bloke yesterday and he invited me to write an article on Brexit — he said that I could write something for him this week, or wait until after the weekend.

Did I want to write something now (and look foolish next week) or play it safe and write after the vote. I told him that I was very busy this week, and would next week be OK?

The e-mail from him came at a timely moment as my octogenarian friend James (you may remember that I first introduced you to James in the Ouch! How Brexit is hurting UK pensioners in Canada and in the later article James and I go to London) and I were playing pin the tail on the next PM. Even with a blindfold on, he managed to pin it on Elizabeth May three times out of five — he always has had a penchant for strong women.

I had to explain to him that Elizabeth May was not standing in every constituency, and since he lives in Ontario he will have to choose somebody closer to home …

In a nutshell, where are we with Brexit?

So far, this single issue has blown through two Prime Ministers: David Cameron and Theresa May (who submitted essentially the same “Withdrawal Agreement” to the UK Parliament four times in succession, only to have four resounding defeats, leading to her resignation) and now threatens the short tenure of Boris Johnson.

This last one seems very strange since he easily won the hearts and minds of the Conservative heartlands in becoming PM, and he has been very consistent in saying that the UK is leaving the EU on October 31, come hell or high water, with or without a deal.

But there has still been strong resistance in his own Party, never mind Opposition parties that could see and smell blood in the water already.

In order to avoid a head-on collision, Boris prorogued Parliament which was deemed illegal, then the Benn Act was passed which forbade Parliament from taking the “no deal” route, and, instead Boris would have to agree with the EU a new withdrawal date).

Boris then expelled 23 members of his own Party for voting against him (including a good friend of the “frozen” pensioners, Sir Oliver Letwin (no name dropping, but one of the cleverest men James and I have ever met)), and he has kept plugging away, even issuing a document this week entitled “No-Deal Readiness Report” and agreed a “new” deal with the EU.

This was put before the UK Parliament today (Parliament has only sat three times since 1939 on a Saturday.

What has all the fuss been about, you may ask?

Finding a solution in Ireland that suits Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the UK and the EU — an impossible task you may think. Everyone was agreed that there should not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (this would be like annulling the “Good Friday Agreement” and nobody wants to go there).

Boris has now agreed with the EU that the whole of the UK will leave the EU customs union. This will allow the UK to negotiate future trade deals with any country in the world. There will be different tax rates for goods that are transported to Northern Ireland, depending on where they are for use in Northern Ireland or whether they will be transported to the Republic of Ireland, and vice versa; goods that arrive in the Republic of Ireland will be taxed differently depending on whether they stay there or whether they are transported to Northern Ireland or the UK. More details of the “deal” can be found here.

Since my main interest in all of this is the impact any Brexit deal has on UK pensioners living in the EU. Essentially, if a Brexit deal is struck with the EU before the end of this month, then the UK pensioners living in the EU (of which, according to data from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) there were 498,000 as at February 2019) will continue to receive the annual increase to their UK State Pension (a bumper 4% next April) for the transition period which ends on December 31, 2020.

The transition period will then be used to negotiate reciprocal social security arrangements between the UK and each of the EU countries such that the UK pensioners living in the EU will continue to receive free healthcare and UK State Pension annual increases.

If the UK has not finalised a deal with the EU by October 31, then things get really interesting. Boris is adamant that the UK will leave by the end of this month, even if that means there is a “no deal,” and the Benn Act of Parliament prevents this from happening. The Benn Act is interesting because the Judiciary usually keeps its nose out of political decision making, but not so on this occasion.

So, if the UK does crash out of the EU on October 31, UK pensioners living in the EU will continue to receive the annual increase to their UK State Pension until 2023 — presumably because it will take much longer to negotiate bilateral social security agreements with each of the EU countries, since they will be really pissed off with the UK.

Also, with a “no deal” it is not clear whether the UK will still have to pay the divorce bill — which, according to the pillar of the British press, The Sun, is an amount “between £35 and £39 billion.”

It has taken a long time to get here, but how does this affect UK pensioners who have come her to Canada to retire?

According to Department for Work & Pensions numbers, there were close to 134,000 UK pensioners living here, and there will be no “bumper 4%” increase for them next April (there are over 26,000 of them who are receiving less than £20 per week (say, CAD 32), and another 50,000 who are receiving between £20 and £40 per week). A UK State Pension is “frozen” at the level at which it is first received, with no annual increase, ever.

So, by way of example, if you had retired from the UK and came here to Canada in 2001, aged 65, on a full UK State Pension, you would have received £72.50 (C$159) per week. You would still be getting £72.50 a week (C$119), but in real terms getting C$40 less per week due to the drop in the £ to CAD exchange rate. Since emigrating here, your peers back in the UK will have received £26,538 (C$47,026) less. If you are a retired UK ex-pat, this chart may help you see how much less you have received.

If you already affected, or think that you will be affected by the UK “frozen pension” policy, and would like to help us in our fight, please check out the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP) and they may be able to help you.

Once new bilateral social security agreements have been negotiated between the UK and EU countries, then the “frozen” pensioner action groups like CABP will challenge the UK Government on a “why them, and not us?” basis.

Finally (at last, you say), if you were one of the 3.4 million Advanced Poll voters, then congratulations. If you didn’t vote in the Advanced Poll, and you are eligible to vote, I implore you to get out and vote on October 21.

This could be a close federal election, and every vote counts. I have no idea who James will be voting for … he is playing his cards very close to his chest … but, to his chagrin, it won’t be Elizabeth May!

Where do you stand on the “frozen pensions” issue? Nigel can be reached through:

E-mail: theretiree@telus.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011398010359
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/FrozenBritishPensions/

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How will Brexit affect you? We’re looking for opinions: Part 1

Brexitsign

You MUST be affected by this, in some way, surely?

Jason Ho is a producer with CBC News and reached out to Brits in Toronto to put the word out that he’s looking for people who will be affected by Brexit in the following ways:

  • Supply chain — ability to get materials out of the UK to Canada and vice versa
  • Exiting or entering the country, consular services, visas, immigration issues
  • Healthcare service access
  • Anyone who’s getting paid in British pounds, worried about the cost of living in Canada if the currency fluctuates wildly
  • Concern about family members in the coming months and what the impact will be on the cost of living, supply chain within the UK
  • Effects we don’t know about but someone from Britain may be aware of
  • Those who Brexit will benefit in some way

You don’t have to particularly be a Brit expat, but do need to have a view or be affected by the above issues.

Please contact Jason directly at jason.ho@cbc.ca or 416-205-7420.

So, that’s Part 1.

If Jason gets enough respondents with the kind of feedback he’s seeking, then Part 2 will be that we all meet up at a British pub (got one already interested that has the space and allows media filming) the week before the Brexit deadline — so anywhere from October 25-29 — and Jason can take it from there for CBC News.

So, put the word out and contact Jason if you can help, then watch this space …

Things the UK government should be ashamed of: Parts I-III

UK government

Grrrrr! We’re so bloody angry!

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 Past Chair of the (also) non-profit International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP).

Here’s his latest thoughts on the “frozen pensions” policy. 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.

Things the UK government should be ashamed of – Part I

Millions of you out there viewing this blog (I wish!) will have read several outspoken articles that I have written on the UK government’s “frozen pensions” Policy which has been in existence for over 70 years now.

If you live in one of 120 countries (of which Canada is one) your UK State Pension is “frozen” at the level at which it is first received, and you will not receive the annual increases. This affects the over 133,000 recipients of the UK State Pension who live in Canada. The UK is the only country in the OECD (out of 35) that operates this immoral and discriminatory policy. The Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP) has been lobbying the UK government for over 25 years in an attempt to annul this outdated policy.

I would like to tell you about Vic Williams, one of the strongest CABP supporters, who died a couple of months ago at the tender age of 96. I know that this blog normally tells you about successful Brits living in Ontario. As Vic lived in Mississauga, I think that he would have counted.

Vic Williams

Vic Willams. Photo courtesy of Wendy Williams

Vic passed away at the grand old age of 96, and he was of the old school. Born in the East End of London he was a true Cockney, and, like all Cockneys he was a born storyteller, entertaining all who new him with fascinating (and often hilarious) stories of his rich life, which began in London England, where in his youth he was a talented soccer player.

His service as a young man in the Royal Navy on the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable took him around the world. He joined up because “it was the right thing to do.”

Back in post-war London Vic met Helen, and they were married in 1954. They emigrated to Canada in 1956 and settled in Mississauga in 1958, where their family of three soon grew to five. Vic worked for Alcan for over 25 years, rising to a management position, and in the process teaching his children the values of diligence and hard work. Despite the Cockney accent that never quite left him, he was a proud Canadian, camping with his family and exploring Canada with Helen.

In retirement, Vic and Helen became founding members of the Probus Club of Mississauga Centre which provided them with many opportunities to enjoy activities with new friends. Vic was known as an avid horse-racing enthusiast and a prudent handicapper, who usually came out as a winner upon placing a bet. A generous man, Vic often gave his winnings to family and charities. As a proud WW II veteran, he was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, participating in Remembrance Day ceremonies each year.

Until recently, a fiercely independent Vic continued to live in the Mississauga house that has been the family home for almost 50 years. Vic was always proud of the fact that, in his youth, he knew Michael Caine. Even when he was in his early nineties, he was still able to attend the CABP AGM’s where I had the honour of meeting him.

In 2013, Vic, in conjunction with the CABP made a Remembrance Day video for the then Prime Minister, David Cameron beseeching him to revoke the unfair, immoral and discriminatory “frozen pensions” policy. I am not sure if Mr. Cameron ever saw the video.

Because of the UK government’s “frozen pensions” policy, UK pensioners living in Canada who retired at the same time as Vic, and who have earned a “full” UK State Pension will have received more than £67,000 less than their peers in the UK, even though they will have made the same level of National Insurance contributions. In Canadian Dollar terms (using historic exchange rates), this amounts to close on CAD 129,500, which is not chump change and is a life-changing amount for many older pensioners who may have become dependent on the Canadian government for handouts and subsidies.

According to Statistics Canada, as at 2016, there were 828,000 pensioners living in Canada aged 65 and over on “low income,” and, according to the Government of Canada, as at 2016, 10.3% of men and 10.8% of women aged 65 and over were living below the poverty line — in terms of UK pensioners, this means over 14,000 of them are living below the poverty line.

According to the UK’s Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), there are 38% of UK pensioners living in “frozen” countries (like Canada) who are receiving a UK State Pension of less than £20 per week (CAD 32 per week), at current exchange rates. Who can live on this?

Things the UK government should be ashamed of – Part II

If you are a regular follower of this column, you will know that I have a good friend, James (real person but name changed) who is a doting pensioner in his eighties (https://britsintoronto.com/2018/03/19/brexit-update-nothing-is-agreed-until-everything-is-agreed/). I usually find him chortling in his G&T, but times are so hard that he has run out of gin. He recently went down to his wine cellar to get a bottle of claret, but he has also run out of that. Times are hard. Things haven’t been helped by what is happening (or not happening) with Brexit.

With the UK Parliament in recess, and no clear way forward in terms of the UK divorcing the EU, it is UK pensioners living overseas who continue to suffer. When the Brexit referendum result was announced there was an immediate fall in the exchange rate:

Exchange rate small
(Larger version here.) Source: https://www.currenciesdirect.com/en/currency-tools/currency-charts

All UK State Pensions are paid in GBP. Most pensioners are living pension cheque to pension cheque. This mean that they are hostages to fortune when it comes to exchange rates, and have to take the rate on the day that they receive their pension cheque.

According to the latest DWP figures, the average UK State Pension received by pensioners living in Canada is just over £41 per week. At the beginning of June 2016 (just before the Brexit referendum), this would have been worth nearly CAD 80 per week. By the middle of July (just after the Brexit referendum) this would only be worth CAD 70 per week. The longer that the UK government prevaricates over the Brexit deal (or no deal) the more jittery the currency exchange markets become, and this means the UK pensioners living abroad will be worse off.

In fact, my friend James receives a smaller UK State Pension today in CAD terms than when he first retired. When he first retired in 1998, he was receiving £64.70 per week. The exchange rate in those days was 2.37 CAD to the pound, so he was receiving CAD 153 per week. Today, he is still receiving £64.70 per week, but this is only worth CAD 109 per week — so he is receiving a staggering 29% less now in real terms than when he first retired.

Meanwhile, according to the Bank of Canada, inflation has risen by over 46% since 1998, when James retired. Whilst the UK government cannot be held completely responsible for the changes in exchange rates, it is impossible for UK pensioners living in “frozen” countries to budget when their income base is in decline, and inflation is rising at an average rate of nearly 2% a year (at least, in Canada).

However, the annulment of the “frozen pensions” policy is entirely in the hands of the UK government, and the fund from which the State Pension is paid (the National Insurance Fund) currently has a £6 billion surplus. Meanwhile, to uprate the UK State Pension for all pensioners living in Canada would cost a meagre (in comparison) £159 million per year. Hopefully, Brexit may force their hands, but that is a story for another day.

In the meantime, it is enough to drive James and his pensioner friends to drink … except they can no longer afford it. The gin is all drunk, and so is the wine. All that is left for them is to try their hand at homebrewing.

Things the UK government should be ashamed of – Part III

Prior to the General Election called by Theresa May in June 2017, the then Pensions Minister, Richard Harrington had asked for a meeting with the International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP) — 50% owned by CABP. The CABP flew a Board Member to London for the meeting. Mrs May called a General Election before that meeting could take place, and the meeting was called off at the last minute.

After the General Election, the Pensions Minister role was downgraded to the Parliamentary-Under-Secretary role, and Guy Opperman was appointed. Since then, there has been no contact. There was no apology, no offer to reimburse the ICBP for the costs that they had incurred – nada.

Yet another reason why this current UK government should be ashamed …

If there are any questions you have relating to the UK State Pension, you can call the CABP toll-free on 1-888-591-3964 or contact info AT britishpensions DOT COM.

Brexit update: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”

Brexit update

We’ll meeeeet again, don’t know wherrrre, don’t know whe — oh, sorry, we probably won’t

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 Past Chair of the (also) non-profit International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP).

Here’s his latest thoughts on Brexit and pensioners in Canada who receive the UK State Pension. 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 recently speaking to my octogenarian friend James the other day (you may remember that I first introduced you to James in the Ouch! How Brexit is hurting UK pensioners in Canada and in the later article James and I go to London), and I said to him what a quintessentially European phrase, “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” really is, although its origins seem to come from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2005.

What has this got to do with the UK State Pension which is what James and I always end up talking about? You see, he is a British military chap and he is usually found frothing at the mouth because he has found out that if he had stayed in the UK rather than retiring here to Canada he would be more than £31,000 better off in terms of his UK State Pension; using historic exchange rates, this converts to over $56,000 — not a trifling amount by any means.

If James lived south of the Niagara Falls (in the US) he would have been getting the annual increases to his UK State Pension. Instead, he chose to live north of the Falls, here in Canada and he hasn’t been getting the annual increases, and his UK State Pension has been “frozen.” How unfair is that?

James has been reading about Brexit and that got him thinking about UK pensioners living in Europe. There are 496,000 pensioners living in Europe who are in receipt of a UK State Pension:

Pensioners stats

Source: Dept. of Work and Pensions

Once the UK drops out of Europe, then, technically, the UK government no longer has a legal obligation to continue giving these pensioners the annual inflationary increase. This year the increase is 3%, so, for anyone getting their UK State Pension based on the pre-2016 Pensions Bill, this means an increase of just over £190 per year. Those who have retired after April 2016 will receive up to an estimated £260.

These pensioners are not happy about the possibility of them losing the annual increase, and there are a number of European pension lobby groups who are petitioning the UK Parliament.

The European Parliament and the UK Government have agreed that the UK government will continue to “export benefits” which includes the annual increase to the UK State Pension, and that has been drafted into the Withdrawal Bill which is currently before the UK Parliament. This is fine as long as the Withdrawal Bill is enacted.

However, Brexit negotiations are currently getting bogged down with negotiating a trade agreement. If the negotiations are not all completed by March 27, 2019, then the UK could fall out of the EU, and the Withdrawal Bill could be in limbo. So, where would this leave the pensioners living in Europe who receive a UK State Pension?

There are 540,000 pensioners living in 120 countries who do not receive the annual increase to their UK State Pension (larger image):

Countries affected small

Source: International Consortium of British Pensioners

As you can see, Canada is one of those countries (where there are 144,000 “frozen” pensioners). The pension lobby groups that I represent are watching very carefully to see what Brexit delivers in terms of the annual UK State Pension increase.

Technically, the pensioners living in Europe will be joining all the other “frozen” UK pensioners in the world, and the number would then swell to over one million unhappy pensioners — not a pleasant sight!

The UK Government has said that as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, they will negotiate “bilateral agreements” with European countries such that the pensioners living in Europe will continue to receive their annual UK State Pension increase. What James and many others are asking: “Why them, and not us?”

If you think that you are going to be affected by the UK “frozen” pension policy, and would like to help us in our fight, please check out the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners and they may be able to help you …

Where do you stand on this? Nigel can be reached:

E-mail: nigel AT britishpensions DOT COM

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CABP_News

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011398010359

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nigelnelson7150/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/nigelbritishpensionscom/

Ouch! How Brexit is hurting UK pensioners in Canada

Pensions

File your pension somewhere safe, like in a paper folder with “Pensions” written on it or something

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.

Watch this space (as well as the CABP website and Facebook page) for further updates, both on Brexit and on how my friend James is managing to make ends meet.

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.

 

Brits look to Canada after Brexit

Nigel Farage

If you don’t like this future, try Toronto!

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.