We don't have all the details of the legal challenge yet, they are expected to be released later today.
But this dispute has been bubbling away for a while now. The Commission says the right to reside test is illegal under EU law as British citizens pass it automatically. The UK Government is disputing this claim saying it is clear that the UK rules “are in line with EU law.”
The dispute is largely the result of a clash between the UK’s particular welfare model, which includes many non-contributory, means-tested benefits, and the EU rules, which prohibit any discrimination and applies the same logic to every EU member state, despite the huge differences between individual countries’ welfare systems. As Stephen said:
"What is also important to understand here is the UK has a particular welfare system that is universalist and involves lots of means tested benefits, unlike on the continent where a lot of it is based on contributions. So we have a system that needs safeguards in order to ensure that only people who are eligible can claim benefits and that's what the right to reside is meant to ensure."The European Commission has thrown a political hand-grenade into two deeply controversial domestic debates: Europe and immigration. It is the worst possible issue to challenge the UK on, and at the worst possible time. As we have argued in the past, we think free movement has its upsides, but you cannot have free movement without public confidence that the freedom won't be abused.
On this showing, it is difficult not to draw the conclusion that some senior figures in the Commission would be quite happy to see the UK leave the EU.
More details to follow when we have them.