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Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the UK

On the 24th of December 2020, the EU and the UK reached an agreement on their future relationship. This agreement will apply to persons moving between the EU and the UK after the 1st of January 2021.

What changes on 1 January 2021?

By leaving the EU, the UK has chosen to put an end to the free movement of persons between the EU and the UK as of 1 January 2021.

All movements after 1 January 2021 will be subject to the EU’s and UK’s existing immigration legislation applicable to all third country nationals.

Those who were or had been already in a cross-border situation between the EU and the UK before 1 January 2021 are covered under the Withdrawal Agreement, which allows for their continued right to remain, ensures non-discrimination and protects their social security rights.

Who is covered by provisions on social security coordination?

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement covers EU citizens, UK and third-country nationals, stateless persons and refugees, in a cross-border situation as of 1 January 2021, legally residing in the EU or the UK, and whose situation is not confined to a single country from a social security perspective. It also covers their family members and survivors.

What exactly will be covered under the coordination of social security systems?

The Agreement ensures that social security benefits are coordinated. It also ensures that only one set of rules applies to a person at any given time. This will avoid the risk that such a person would pay double social security contributions or that no legislation applies to them at a given moment and are therefore left without social security protection.

The Agreement provides wide protection to EU and UK citizens. The majority of social security benefits will be coordinated and protected between the EU and the UK, so that citizens preserve their rights if, for example:

  • they are or will be in a cross-border situation and work or will work in more than one country, one of them being the UK as from 1 January 2021;
  • they reside in one Party and work in another;
  • they move residence to the other Party; or
  • they travel between the EU and the UK for a temporary stay.

More specifically, such a person will not lose their right to old-age and survivors’ pensions, death grants, pre-retirement benefits, or maternity/paternity benefits related to the birth of a child in the other Party.

Accidents at work will also be coordinated so that a person working outside the State of insurance may be treated in the State of work where the accident happened. If they move to the other Party, they may continue to receive their cash benefits there as well.

What happens to periods worked both in the EU and in the UK when it comes to people’s benefits?

A person will not lose the periods worked in the EU and in the UK, which will be taken into consideration when their benefits will be determined and calculated (e.g. unemployment benefits, old-age and survivors’ pensions).

Periods worked in the UK and the EU will also be taken into account when determining a person’s entitlement to invalidity benefits.

What won’t be covered?

The Agreement foresees equal treatment of EU citizens with UK nationals and vice versa for the purpose of social security contributions and benefits.

However, there are some exceptions. For example, certain benefits are not included in the Agreement and that means that access to such benefits will be left for domestic legislation which may then choose to treat the concerned persons differently.

Such benefits include family benefits, long-term care, invalidity benefits outside of the UK, special non-contributory benefits or assisted conception services.