Should the UK be thrown out of the Commonwealth over expat pensions?

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Should the UK be thrown out of the Commonwealth until expat pensions are addressed?

Whether or not a British expat receives a full state pension depends largely on where they live, and campaigners have had enough of this disparity.

In countries which have not signed a bilateral agreement with the UK (such as New Zealand and Canada) expat pensions are not inflation linked, meaning that a person’s pension is frozen at the level in place at the time of their retirement.

Pensioners living in countries which have a bilateral agreement with the UK (like Spain and France) are eligible for a full basic state pension of £110 a week, whereas older residents living in other nations could be receiving as little as £17.

According to figures published in 2012, over 500,000 British pensioners are living in nations where pensions are not inflation-proofed, and many are arguing that it’s time to take a stand.

As stated by a spokesperson for the Consortium of British Pensioners: ‘The UK is now defaulting on the Commonwealth Equality Charter, which Her Majesty the Queen signed in March [2013], calling for equality and an end to discrimination for all. We believe that until this issue of discrimination and inequality is dealt with, the Commonwealth should consider suspending the UK from membership.’

In an interview for the Telegraph the spokesperson also asserted: ‘How can it be equal when a British pensioner living in Canada aged 90 receives one third of the pension of a British pensioner aged 65 living in Canada [...] Many very elderly pensioners are suffering greatly. [...] It is a Commonwealth issue and yet the Commonwealth has refused to discuss it. Britain controls the agenda at the Commonwealth heads of Government meetings and will not include frozen British pensions.’

The rules were originally drawn up in 1947, and given how much the levels of immigration have increased since then many feel they are now extremely out of date.

When questioned on this issue by The Telegraph the Department for Work and Pensions commented: ‘The UK state pension is payable worldwide but is only upgraded abroad where we have a legal requirement or reciprocal agreement. This has always been the case and people who are considering emigrating abroad should always consider the impact the move could have on their future state pension entitlement.’

But in nations like Canada the local government is increasingly paying for the shortcomings of UK pensions, and this is becoming something of a sore spot.

What do you think? Should Britain be suspended from the Commonwealth until it addresses this issue? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter, or have your say in the Expat Hub Forum

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