Pensions and Brexit

Generation 2004 regularly alerts the staff with respect to the sustainability of our pension scheme [1]. Commissioner Oettinger seems to agree with us (“He therefore recommended a rigorous [budgetary] approach, particularly as there would be a considerable increase in the cost of EU officials’ pensions in the coming years“, see middle of page 14 in the Minutes of the last meeting of the College in May). Some more reasons to worry according to an article in The Guardian: an “EU diplomat” is quoted as saying “we cannot trade pensions for the MFF” [during the Brexit negotiations]. Let us hope that this diplomat really means what (s)he said. The fact that the Brexit Task Force has so far not bothered informing the staff about what is in preparation with respect to the employees of the institutions, not even those who have British origins, almost a year after the Brexit referendum, is not a good sign. The article in The Guardian emphasises that the EU has promised transparency, as opposed to the UK negotiators who apparently want secrecy. We have some doubts about this transparency pledge by the EU, see top of page 4 of our May newsletter.

Some optimists may still be hoping that Brexit can be reversed in the wake of the recent elections in the UK. However, legal experts seem to think otherwise (see for instance page 15 of the proceeding of a workshop organised by the EP on the consequences of Brexit, where the only option would be for the UK to apply again for EU membership, which sounds like a rather remote possibility. For those with a “legal” mind, see also the European Parliament briefing on Brexit).

One thing that everyone seems to forget is that a prolongation of the 2-year negotiation period is possible if there is unanimous support in the Council. Judging from the tendency of the Council to let things drag on and on when discussing thorny issues, this prolongation is not to be ruled out. Whether such a prolongation would be good or bad for the EU staff is debatable. We would probably suffer from a prolonged period of uncertainty, although this might still be preferable to a brutal agreement where the last remainders of our benefits would be sacrificed as a bargaining chip to please the eurosceptics in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

[1] 19.1.2021 letter from Commissioner Hahn confirms that the UK ‘will pay its share of the pension rights for all EU staff’.

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