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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.

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

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Quirks of the UK State Pension affecting British pensioners living abroad

Canadian Alliance Of British Pensioners

Got some UK pension system questions? Give ’em a bell on the dog and bone for a chinwag

This is a free, non-paid-for guest article by Nigel Nelson, a member of the Toronto-based non-profit Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP). 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.

Have you ever worked in the UK? Did you make National Insurance contributions (NICs) when you worked? Depending on the number of years of NICs you have to your credit you might qualify for a British state pension. However, if you qualify for a UK State Pension, as long as you live in Canada, you will not receive the annual inflationary increase as given to pensioners in the UK, EU and an obscure list of countries. This is known as the British “frozen pensions” policy.

The Canadian Association of British Pensioners was established in 1991 to help British pensioners living in Canada navigate the UK State Pension system by providing information with respect to eligibility for a British State Pension; keeping current with the successive changes which have been made to the UK State Pension system and lobbying the UK government for parity with all British pensioners living overseas. We can answer your questions about the UK pension system.

CABP is a registered non-profit organisation and all of the directors are volunteers, as are most of the people who work out of the office in Toronto. Anyone who has worked in the UK and has paid National Insurance Contributions may well qualify for a UK State Pension.

Those people in Canada look to organizations like the CABP, which has the experience and understanding of the UK pension system, for advice. There are over 5,000 members in Canada who currently get this support.

According to the 2011 Canadian National Household Survey, there were 125,000 British immigrants over the age of 65 living in Ontario and another 65,000 in the 55-64 age category. In Toronto alone, there are 43,000 and 24,000 respectively.

Many of these immigrants will qualify for a British State Pension, but may not know that; and they’re probably unaware that, once they start to receive a UK State Pension, they will never receive any of the annual increases enjoyed by their peers in the UK … even though they will probably have paid the same level of National Insurance Contributions.

Successive UK governments for over 70 years have followed this “frozen pensions” policy. The policy is based on outdated logic and the UK government has now conceded that the only impediment to eliminating the “frozen pension” policy is cost, accompanied by the “political will” to do so. There are over half a million “frozen” UK pensioners living abroad — 90% of these “frozen” pensioners live in Commonwealth countries such as Australia (45%) and Canada (28%).

CABP provides support to UK pensioners in Canada and they work tirelessly in trying to abolish this unfair and immoral policy. For example if you live on the American side of Niagara Falls you would receive the annual increase; if you live on the Canadian side of the Falls you wouldn’t receive the increase.

If you had retired in 1980 with a full UK State Pension it was just £27.15 per week — slightly over $50 in today’s money. Could you live on that? There will be cases where members, who do not have the full number of years of National Insurance contributions, are living on less.

A UK pensioner retiring on a full State Pension in 1980 will have been underpaid by £80,000 up to the end of April 2016. Today’s UK State Pension, at £119 per week, is 440% more than it was in 1980! CABP believes that this is unfair, discriminatory, and immoral, and they have been campaigning since 1991 to get this policy changed. In comparison, the CPP payment is payable to Canadians globally and is adjusted annually wherever the Canadian pensioner chooses to live.

Sadly, some of these pensioners even have to go back “home” to the UK since they can no longer live on their “frozen pension.” This is causing them considerable angst — leaving behind their loved ones, having to make travel arrangements, and finding accommodation when they get back.

For example, last year alone, there were 2,000 UK pensioners who returned back to the UK, and, for many of them, it will be because they could no longer afford to live in their country of choice, based on the state pension they were receiving. Any returning pensioner to the UK has their pension uplifted to the current rate — the same as all other pensioners living in the UK. They also qualify for other social welfare benefits.

Currently, the UK Treasury saves over £4,300 per year for each pensioner emigrating, so, for returning pensioners, it adds to UK Treasury costs. Given these numbers, you would think that the UK Government would be encouraging pensioners to leave rather than putting barriers in their way.

The good news is that there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. A proposal, with respect to amending the “frozen pension” policy has been submitted to the Cabinet Office in the UK Parliament in London. The proposal is currently under consideration, but is by no means a “done deal” … and so we must keep up the campaign.

If you would like to find out more about your British Pension rights and how you will be affected by a “frozen pension,” or, you would like more general information, you can check out the CABP.

CABP is based in Toronto and can provide a wealth of current and accurate information with respect to British pensions. Contact information is on the website.