Support 100 years of independent journalism.

Vote Leave got it wrong – Brexit will cost the NHS £500m a year instead

No Brexit deal will be expensive for the NHS, and a disaster for Jeremy Hunt. 

By Julia Rampen

“Let’s give our NHS the £350m the EU takes every week”

– Vote Leave

Retired British expats in Spain and Portugal are living on smaller pensions, thanks to the slump in sterling, and an uncertain future, at least as far as their access to healthcare is concerned.

Still, health secretary Jeremy Hunt will be hoping Brits abroad still feel the warm breeze off the Med is worth it. 

The Nuffield Trust found that the NHS could face a bill of almost half a billion pounds if retired British people currently living in other EU countries decide to return to the UK. Nearly 200,000 British pensioners currently receive healthcare under an EU reciprocal scheme. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

If these pensioners all turned up in British hospitals, it is likely to cost £979m a year – or £500m once British spending on EU citizens is removed. As well as Costa Del Sol returnees, other Brexit-related costs include £100m if the NHS cannot access medicine at the same cost as before.

Hunt – still most likely to be the health secretary come Brexit negotiations to the grief of junior doctors – recently said a bad Brexit deal would be a disaster for the NHS. But telling pensioners with chronic heart disease that there is no money to accommodate them in their native health service would be even more of a disaster for Jeremy Hunt.