Health and social security entitlements
As things stand, the social security of persons moving within the European Union (EU) is governed by specific EU legislation protecting the social security entitlements of EU citizens. Such persons:
- are at all times subject to the legislation of a single member state and therefore pay social security or national insurance contributions in that country only
- have the same rights and obligations as subjects of the country in which they are insured
- are paid benefits which take account of previous periods in which they were insured, employed or resident in other member states (aggregation of periods)
- will generally receive—if they are entitled to benefits from member state 1—those benefits if they are a resident of member state 2 (exportability)
These principles also apply to British citizens working or residing in Belgium, and will continue to apply to them until the UK leaves the EU.
Exactly how social security will be arranged from that time on is something that will depend on any agreement which might yet be reached between the EU and the UK.
Situation in the event of a deal
The text of the withdrawal agreement as negotiated between the EU and the UK provides for two periods:
- Up to and including 31 December 2020: a transitional period during which, even though the UK is no longer a member state of the EU, EU social security law remains fully in force in the UK. In other words, the situation of British citizens residing in Belgium will not change.
- From 1 January 2021 onwards: EU social security law will no longer be applicable to the UK. Some social security entitlements will, however, be preserved for those British and EU citizens who have been making use of the free movement of persons prior to 31 December 2020. Arrangements have yet to be made to cover situations that commence after that date.
Situation in the event of no deal
In the event of no deal, the social security entitlements of British citizens in Belgium will remain protected after 31 January 2020. The Belgian Federal Government has approved a bill that will keep the social security situation of British citizens in Belgium unaffected until 31 December 2020, to honour the principle of reciprocity between Belgium and the UK. This bill will become law applicable to all branches of social security that are part of the federal competence in Belgium (pensions, unemployment benefits, healthcare, incapacity and invalidity benefits, benefits for occupational accidents and illnesses).
If you are in Belgium temporarily after 31 January 2020 (e.g. on holiday or visiting relatives) or are seconded to Belgium, you will remain subject to UK law. Consequently, if you are in that position, you should deal with the competent British authorities.
For information on the availability of medicines and medical aids, the validity of regulations, questions about travelling with medicines, and ordering products from the UK, you should consult the website of the Federal Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency (FAMHP).