Michael Gove accused of lying about EU citizens' NHS access

PUBLISHED: 12:45 18 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:45 18 November 2019

Michael Gove has been criticised for misrepresenting EU citizens' access to the NHS. Picture: BBC

Michael Gove has been criticised for misrepresenting EU citizens' access to the NHS. Picture: BBC

BBC

Campaigners have reacted angrily to Michael Gove's claims that EU citizens do not pay for access to NHS services.

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In a column in the Mail on Sunday, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster claimed that "under EU rules" European citizens get "preferential access ... without paying in".

But EU citizens' rights group the3million said Gove's claims were "disgusting" and a "complete misrepresentation of the facts", as EU citizens in the UK pay for the service through their taxes.

Nicolas Hatton, the co-founder of the3million, told the Guardian: "It's a cheap political ploy based on xenophobia designed to get votes."

In his column, Gove wrote about making the NHS "stronger and fairer".

"Making our NHS stronger and fairer also means ensuring equal treatment for all new arrivals to this country," he wrote.

"Under EU rules, European nationals arriving here have preferential access to free NHS care whereas other migrants have to wait until they've paid into the system and secured settled status, a process which typically takes five years.

"It's unfair that people coming from European countries can access free NHS care without paying in while others make significant contributions."

But, speaking to the Guardian, Hatton corrected Gove's assertions.

"EU citizens do not have automatic rights to health systems in EU states," he said.

"In the first three months, you are treated like a tourist with no rights, and after three months, unless you are working or are self-sufficient, then you have no rights to the NHS."

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Gove was "completely wrong".

She tweeted: "Michael Gove is completely wrong to say people from EU are accessing the NHS without 'paying in'.

"EU workers pay taxes. The NHS is not a contributory system.

"This is how it begins - the Tory project to undermine the NHS, by bashing and blaming migrants first."

Gove framed his comments around the UK as a "tolerant and inclusive country" in which non-European citizens would access the NHS on the same terms as EU citizens, but continued with the unfounded assertion that "outside the EU, we can control our borders and bring immigration down".

The UK currently chooses not to use the immigration control measures allowed as part of EU membership.

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