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Thursday, May 30, 2013

The European Commission’s decision to take UK to court over migrants’ access to benefits is a spectacular own goal

Our Research Director Stephen Booth was on BBC Radio 4's Today Pragramme this morning discussing the news that the European Commission is today expected to take the UK Government to court over the so-called 'right to reside' test that is applied to EU migrants seeking to claim certain welfare benefits.

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.


Anonymous said...

I could not agree less on the statement that "it is the worst possible issue to challenge the UK on, and at the worst possible time".

Respect of rule of law cannot depend on public opinion feelings and political opportunity, rewinding history. UK, like all other EU members, is bound by specific rules and if there is suspicion that the country is not complying with them, it is in the common public interest that this issue is brought before the Court, even if (or precisely because) it is a sensitive matter.

In practice, you seem to argue that the Commission should not comply with its duties as guardian of the Treaties, putting itself at risk of being brought to court for failure to act.

Although one could agree that there are senior Commission figures (but also junior and even common citizens!) that would be happy to see the UK leave the EU, this has nothing to do with a legal action before the court.

Mauro Gagliardi

Anonymous said...

There would be a lot of very happy people in this country if the senior figures in the Commission were made quite happy by the UK leaving the EU. Anything they can do to help will be welcome, if this is the trigger then great because it is an issue that is clearly wrong, EU immigrants getting the same consideration as UK residents without contributing, and it is an issue that UK people will understand and despise. It is part of the inexorable grabbing of extra power by the EU which the UK people do not like because it shows where things will end, with a country called United States of Europe which is a far cry from the trading only organisation that most UK people want.

Anonymous said...

When UK want refuse Benefits people from EU, then must refuse all immigrants from all world. About 1 month ago was from The Times, claim about 1.6% people of benefits from all EU immigrants in UK. This is obviously chauvinism. UK want people EU, which working in UK, tax and NI, only. UK said: better better non EU people on benefits, like other 26 countries of EU.
Simply question: "What bring like finacial things of UK?

Anonymous said...

So despite virtually every EU country flouting these rules for decades the EU have decided to prosecute just one Country "Britain". Seriously try getting benefits in Spain or Italy even though they are breaking the rules. The EU hasn't done a thing about this, ONLY Britain gets special treatment. Get us out of this one way money grabbing union called the EU before these champagne socialists destroy us.

Rik said...

As said before you can rely on Malwoman to shoot herself and the EU in the feet (probably both this time).
Anyway the procedure can be stretched until the reneg and ultimate referendum date.

Probably good to make some noise again. Like with the Rumenians/Bulgarians where it worked very well seen the little noise that was made. At least as the BBC poll on that can be trusted it caused a huge drop in people interested to move to the UK and even more in those who were planning to come without a job.
Media noise seems to work much better than legislation as far as undesired immigration goes.

Probably here simply wait with paying out until the final ruling (works great with people who live from paycheck to paycheck) and rumours that the whole thing will be reversed in case of a UK negative ruling when the UK has to leave the EU because of the referendum. Time and uncertainty will drop percentages tremendously.
Hague can easily find some diplomatic words to explain it.

It is simply looking less attractive than the rest who probably like a lot of semi-educated, culturally limitedly compatible, nett-receivers of government services.

AuntyEUnice said...

Make the home country of the applicant pay, as with medical treatment.

Rik said...

@anonymous 9.24
Probably not that many (EU Commissioners).
Effectively the EU is carried financially and economically by countries with only roughly 1/3 of the total population. The rest needs transfers to grow (East) or not to disappear in an economic blackhole (South/Latinos). With the UK out that drops to 1/5. Apparently nobody is having doubt yet how sustainable that situation will be.

Germany and Co getting substantially further integrated (read have to pay more) with huge structural beasketcases as well. Hard to see the wisdom in that.

christhai said...

There are no benefits to the people of the UK (or any other country, except possibly Germany) in being a member of this grossly incompetent and corrupt organisation - the EU.

Anything the EU Commission (my God what a dishonest and stupid bunch they are, collectively or individually.) can do to help the UK leave this foul organisation is good.

Allyg said...

Here we go again - another attempt to penalise this country by a group of unelected pro E.U. bureaucrats. These people live in cloud cuckoo land and have no grasp of reality. It stands to common sense that the country that offers the best benefits system (through hard work) will attract a disproportional number of people looking to abuse the that system. This in turn means that the people that contribute to the system (by working hard) get less out of it.
I personally, work primarily to provide for my family. If someone uninvited starts to steal from me then I will get annoyed. This attitude will be reflected nationally, hence the rise in scepticism of the E.U. The only way forward for the U.K. is to get out and govern ourselves as proposed by U.K.I.P.

Rollo said...

The only way out is OUT. Let's have the referendum now.

Anonymous said...

@Rik 11.28 The article stated:
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.
I was using that statement to draw the conclusion that if that is the case then many UK people would be happy about it and if it is the trigger for the UK to leave the EU with the blessing of 'senior figures in the Commission' then good. I do not care what effect it has on the East, South/Latinos or Germany, if those 'senior Commissioners' want to make the case for UK leaving the EU then sooner the better. If/when they realise it is not in their interests then that will increase the UK's bargaining power in any renegotiations, assuming those take place, at present not likely, since that will not happen with a Labour or Lab/LibDem government after 2015.

Freedom Lover said...

The day the European Commission actually takes the UK Government to court over the so-called 'right to reside' test - which is applied to EU migrants seeking to claim certain British welfare benefits while in the UK - is the day that Britain should invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This is the clause under which Britain will be able to negotiate our EU departure - over the Treaty's required 2 year period (extendable if mutually agreed), so that trade can remain uninterrupted on & after the actual date of our departure.

EU countries will want to trade with us after our freedom & departure day, & we will still want to trade with them once we are independent again. That's why going the Article 50 route, rather than following a unilateralist one, is the wisest & safest path to the UK's freedom & independence from the claustrophobic EU.

BelgoBelg said...

The Commission is being both political and legalistic, as it often is. By immersing itself in virtually all aspects of our lives, it is going far beyond the true mandate of the single market--free movement of goods, services, capital and persons. That the Commission bureaucrats are not elected, and the process remarkably opaque, is galling to many. More and more, people don't want this.

But the gut issue here is the welfare state, and how to finance it. Programs that are viable when 95% pay into the system, and 5% draw benefits, are quite impossible when the numbers are 75-25, or worse. Importing benefit takers simply is the icing on the cake. The Commission would do better to leave this one alone; it cannot win, regardless of the outcome of its legal action.

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as "European Law," "EUSSR law," or anything of that ilk.

The UK is a sovereign nation and it can do what it what it wants, irrespective of the agenda of a bunch of gravy train-riding Eurofascsits in Brussels.

Anonymous said...

Sadly we are no longer a sovereign nation as our laws and borders are controlled by the EU -thanks to Labour signing the Lisbon Treaty, and Cameron doing nothing to reverse it.

The only sane way is OUT.

Anonymous said...


I have to say that your comments insense me. Rule of law? Whose law?

The people of the UK have never shared their politicians' view of the EU and nobody under the age of 55 years has even been allowed to vote on the subject. Given a vote we would leave tomorrow.

The UK is currently paying UK rate child benefit to 50,000 children who do not even live in the UK and it is doubtful as to whether either parents have paid a penny in UK tax or national insurance.

The UK is GBP1.2 Trillion in debt. We pay c.GBP18Bn in annual membership subscriptions to the EU which (like the child benefit above) is funded out of debt. This is debt that is being forced on my children for them to pay back.

What is the true cost to the UK of EU and ECHR membership? I reckon that is is over GBP35Bn p.a.

My home city of London is now full with people escaping YOUR failed EU/Euro project. These people are claiming benefits too and/or putting local people out of work by working for less.

What is truly worrying, and is a question for you, is why so many EU/Euro nations have turned into cowards and just accepted the rule of the EU and its appointed technocrat?

Please learn to take responsibility for your own mess and pay for it yourself rather than trying to force it onto us.

I cannot wait to exit the EU and Euro.

God bless sovereign states. Down the EU.

christina speight said...

This is utterly unnecessary and silly. The fact is that the legal argument is about "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin"

It will - of course inflame opinion in Britain still more while the majority of beneficiaries are not affected. The lawyers must be rubbing their hands in glee,

And today the Commission has the cheek to tell us what to do with our economy - which we will ignore and make our own minds up. Hasn't the Commission a job on its hands rescuing the continually collapsing eurozone economy. Talk about the blind leading the (at least partially) sighted.

Could I ask Anonymous - er 2 - above to try to learn english before posting here. What he's on about ?????

As for maurogagliardi he mant us out and if so he is going the right way about it.

JJ3 said...

It is a funny treat to watch welfarists fight over the folly of welfare.

Andrew Smith said...

It is highly irresponsible for the UK authorities to try to ignore EU law. While I am as keen as anyone to leave the EU, the future would indeed be bleak if the rule of law were to be ignored in the ways embarrassed pro-EU commentators sometimes suggest.

The answer is not to ignore bad and unwanted EU laws but to leave the EU so they would no longer apply to us.

Anonymous said...

This is only the beginning.
Remember that not only citizens of Rumania and Bulgaria will be free to cash in on the benifits system soon.
Turkey, Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia and Albania are all future EU candidates. Somewhere down the line, Tunisia and Algeria will also want to join the EU club.

Why are countries unable to offer their own citizens a future...allowed to join the EU in the first place ?

Rik said...

I understood your point clearly. My remark was pointing out that the Commission is missing a big part of the plot.

Like they might not like the UK and donot find them 'cooperative' enough, but who will plug the financial hole if the UK leaves?

And another one the EU has apparently the ambition to play in the world's highest league, but even now has a team of which half are cripples.

And most important what is the use for Germany and Co (SnowMerkel and the 7 dwarf countries) to keep pulling the EU dead horse. The economic cripples are already heavily overrepresented and the no2 'normal' country is made to feel unwelcome. When the UK leaves most important functions will be by Berlusconi and Barrosso types. Good luck with that and the welfare in your country you will need it.

Rik said...

Just saw your comment.

So you mean that shortly a case will be started against the Commission for not properly doing its job regarding the Maastricht criteria. Looked bloody obvious that they missed one (well a few hunderd of those) and for years in a row and Uberbiggies on top of that.
By far the most important piece of legislation of the EU at this point of time.
Apparently they made another political choice there not to start a case.

This is simply as much or more about politics than about legality. And as a consequence thereof the Commission has already lost the case as BelgoBelg clearly explanes. They might win the legal case but they will be butchered in the court of public opinion, which is ultimately the deciding one. Never start a battle you are going to lose.

Rule of Law is also about 'Justice' btw. And not about public opinion but simply about a piece of legislation that is simply seen as completely unjust by a huge majority of the UK population. But as said earlier who cares about the legality, you lost the battle already simply by starting it.

Anonymous said...

it's nice that the rights of immigrants are upheld and that they are more important than the sick and disabled in the uk,who wrongfully have their benefits taken away by the governments nazi atos soldiers,where is the voice for these people.people in the uk are treated like scum,while hoops are jumped through for the people that come to the uk and abuse the benefits system and put a strain on our healthcare,and bring crime here.i say much more stringent tests are needed for these people,and the numbers coming in restricted,or more of the same mind set as the woolwich attackers will become more frequent and even worse,how long before we see the use of ied's.its only because of people voting for ukip that cameron is suddenly mentioning immigration whenever he can.

Duke of Basrah said...

Now where are all the critics of Enoch Powell?
I hope all of you who were against his comments, choke on your words!!!!

Anonymous said...

@Andrew Smith

"The answer is not to ignore bad and unwanted EU laws". This certainly seems to be the case with laws that other countries in the EU don't like- France handing out vast swathes of state aid to Air France, Peugeot etc, so why wouldn't it work for the UK?