LONDON – Johnson U-turns on health surcharge

Boris Johnson’s government performed a surprise U-turn, scrapping the fee that non-EU migrants must pay to use the National Health Service (NHS) if they work for the NHS or as care workers. The move came just a day after Johnson staunchly defended the surcharge, which raises £900 million per year, following demands by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for it to be abolished.

Starmer described the government’s volte-face as “a victory for common decency”

Labour had tabled an amendment to the ongoing Immigration Bill exempting NHS and care workers on Thursday, prompting a revolt among Conservative lawmakers. The exemption is expected to cover porters and cleaners as well as health and care workers.

The health immigration surcharge on non-EU migrants is £400 per year and is set to rise to £624 in October. It will apply to EU nationals who move to the UK after next January.

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically increased public support for and awareness of the NHS and care sector, with Johnson and other political leaders taking part in a one-minute ‘clap for carers’ every Thursday.

(Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)

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