Europe

Brexit: Irish government drafting law on EU health cards

Graphic showing wallet with EU flag surrounded by stethoscope Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The EHIC currently entitles you to state-provided medical treatment if you fall ill or have an accident in any EU country

People living in NI will still have access to the equivalent of the European Health Insurance Card after Brexit, Irish PM Leo Varadkar has said.

The EHIC currently entitles people to state-provided medical treatment if they fall ill or have an accident in any EU country.

If the UK leaves with no deal, the EHIC will no longer be valid.

The Taoiseach (Irish PM) said his cabinet had approved a proposal for draft legislation.

This will apply whether they identify as British, Irish or EU citizens.

Anyone born in Northern Ireland has the right to identify as Irish or British or both, thanks to the Good Friday Agreement, a peace deal signed in April 1998 by the British and Irish governments and Northern Ireland's political parties.

Practical details

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil (Irish parliament) the legislation would mean they would, in future, have their health expenses refunded if they required emergency medical services in another part of the European Union.

Mr Varadkar said he expects to have the legislation debated by 31 October, the date UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will leave the European Union, with or without a deal.

He did not outline how the proposed measure would work or who would pay for it.

Mr Varadkar also said that if there was a no-deal Brexit, the Irish government would have to engage in damage limitation.

He said the Republic of Ireland was currently running a budget surplus, but he would rather borrow money to save jobs than borrow money to pay the dole.

The Irish health department said practical details, including the operational elements, were under development and would be made public when available.

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