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Social security co-ordination

Entitlement to the UK State Pension is based on an individual’s UK National Insurance record. As part of the EU, the UK was part of a system to co-ordinate the social security entitlements for people moving within the EU. The rules also apply to EEA countries and Switzerland.

The aim of these provisions is to remove barriers to workers moving between Member States. They enable periods of insurance in different countries to be aggregated. An individual makes one application to the relevant agency in the country of residence – in the UK, the International Pension Centre. It then notifies details of the claim to all countries in which the person has been insured. Each Member State in which the person was insured then calculates its pro-rata contribution and puts that amount into payment. Being part of social security co-ordination, has also ensured that the UK State Pension is uprated annually in EEA countries.

The Withdrawal Agreement

The arrangements to apply post-Brexit were part of the negotiations under Article 50 on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The October 2019 UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement (WA) covers EU citizens who were residing in the UK, and UK nationals who were residing in one of the 27 EU Member States at the end of the transition period (on 31 December 2020) where such residence is in accordance with EU law on free movement. The UK Government explains that those covered by it will “continue to have broadly the same entitlements to work, study and access public services and benefits as before the UK left the EU.”

Guidance on Gov.UK includes: Living in Europe; Benefits and pensions for UK nationals in the EEA and Switzerland; Benefits and pensions for EEA and Swiss citizens in the UK.

Future arrangements

The social security co-ordination arrangements for those who are not in scope of the WA, who move to the EU from 1 January 2021, are the subject of negotiations between the UK and EU on the future relationship. As set out in the Political Declaration, the UK and the EU agreed to consider future social security co-ordination arrangements in the light of the future movement of persons. The exception relates to Ireland, with which the UK Government signed a Convention so that “reciprocal benefit and social security rights for Irish and UK nationals and their family members continue to operate independently of those afforded to EU nationals from other Member States.”

The European Commission  published a draft treaty text on 18 March 2020, including a Protocol on Social Security Coordination. In May, the UK has published a Draft Social Security Coordination Agreement. For more detail, see Library Briefing Paper CBP 8928 The UK-EU future relationship negotiations: social security co-ordination (June 2020).


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