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Monday, January 06, 2014

A childish row which benefits no one

The lifting of transitional controls on Romanians and Bulgarians hasn't done much to calm the debate about EU free movement and EU migrants' access to the UK benefits system with David Cameron again floating changes to the rules around child benefit paid to EU migrants whose families live abroad. Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, Cameron argued that:
"there are other European countries, who like me, think it’s wrong that someone from Poland, who comes here, who works hard and I am absolutely all in favour of that – but I don’t think they should be paying, we should be paying child benefit, to their family back at home in Poland."
This prompted a fierce riposte from Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski (not exactly a supporter of Cameron's EU strategy anyway) on twitter which comes hot on the heels of another UK-Polish row over the issue of free movement:
This is the crux of the matter - under EU law, specifically the regulation on social security co-ordination) it is difficult for the UK to discriminate between UK citizens and other EU/EEA nationals (remember the EU has already launched a legal challenge against the UK's right to reside test) so they are all equally eligible to receive child benefit providing they meet the other criteria.

Although the sums of money are not huge when compared to other welfare expenditure (estimated by Migration Watch - not known for providing conservative estimates - to be £55m a year), to many voters this process is incomprehensible and cannot be justified which is why Cameron has singled it out as a priority for renegotiation. However, Sikorski and others are entitled to point out that Poles and other EU nationals pay tax in the UK and so contribute towards funding the system. As we've pointed out on a number of occasions, EU free movement comes with economic benefits - the UK debate ahead of the lifting of transitional control has at times been pretty hysteric - but at the same time, radically different income levels and varying benefit systems do present a challenge which requires sensitive and pragmatic political management.

Ultimately, there is no reason why a sensible compromise cannot be reached, but this requires proper, policy based discussions, rather than trading in hyperbole. This is precisely what our upcoming EU reform conference is geared towards - bringing leading reformers from around Europe together to debate the issues and appreciate that different countries come at these issues from different perspectives. Given recent developments, our roundtable debate on free movement - featuring Tory MP Priti Patel and Civil Platform MP Agnieszka Pomaska - who chairs the Polish parliament's EU Affairs committee - is set to be one of the highlights of the conference.

Do get in touch if you want to know more about the conference.


Jesper said...

At times it does look like politicians make gaffes on purpose. Or it could be the case of an out of touch politician trying to pretend being in touch.

One compromise on this particular issue could be that the amount of child support paid isn't dependent on where the parents live but instead based on where the children live. Index payments with cost of living in the country or pay the same amount the local government would have paid.

What are the economic benefits of migration as proposed by liberals? Downward pressure on wages and increased cost of housing? Sounds more like benefits for the rentier-class than benefits for the common citizen.
How much extra money will be allocated towards controls to minimise the illegal abuse that unscrupulous employers will subject to people not knowing their rights?
How much extra money will be allocated towards minimising the risk that bad behaviour by unscrupulous employers won't put law-abiding employers out of business?

The naivety of liberals in their belief that laws will be followed without enforcement is at times incredible.

jon livesey said...

"However, Sikorski and others are entitled to point out that Poles and other EU nationals pay tax in the UK and so contribute towards funding the system."

Sorry, but this doesn't make very much sense. Poles working in the UK pay UK taxes because they receive UK services.

That doesn't translate into the UK paying child benefits for children they may have back in Poland.

There are plenty of, for example, Indians, working and paying taxes in the UK, but that doesn't mean that the UK ought to pay benefits for their relatives living back in India.

jon livesey said...


"One compromise on this particular issue could be that the amount of child support paid isn't dependent on where the parents live but instead based on where the children live."

Good one. While we are at it, let's pay it out of the Foreign Aid budget, not the Social Services budget.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

And just how can a new arrangement be arrived at except by invoking Article 50 of the TEU?

Just where in the Lisbon Treaty is there anything written that permits renegotiation or taking back powers?

For OE to continue this farce on behalf of Cameron is pointless.

I note that you do not tackle the ridiculous claim that Cameron made on the same programme:

"To change that you’ve either got to change it with other European countries at the moment or potentially change it through the Treaty change that I’ll be putting in place before the referendum that we’ll hold on Britain’s membership of the EU, by the end of 2017".

We both know he cannot put in place treaty change, neither can he keep to his schedule of holding a referendum in 2017.

If you believe he can then do please explain how.

Rollo said...

How many of these chaps are paying UK taxes in full? The word is that if you want a house job done, pay cash to the Polish chap in a white van.

Anonymous said...

we are all to well aware that Camoron doesn't want to change any eussr law and certainly doesn't want a referendum, hence his promise to give us one when he won't be in power. There is no way he can renegotiate our position because Bliar signed the constitution, euphemistically called the lisbon treaty after failing to give us the promised referendum. The folly of allowing unfettered immigration at a time of increasing unemployment is obvious to all, but the rich getting cheap labour can't see the likely outcome of this position.

christina speight said...

WitteringsfromWitney is - as usual - the only one that spots the "emperor's absence of clothes". All this 'renegotiation' is sheer moonshine. NOTHING can improve unttil we decide tp quit altogether and THEN we can negotiate the best deal for everyone [provided the Foreign Offoce is kept well away]

Let's just get on with those negotiations which under Artic;e 50 are obligatoryt and then see what's on offer , Finally the referendum.

We're living in an Alice-in-Wonderland world where everything works back to front.

jon livesey said...

WitteringsfromWitney: It's very simple. You can invoke Article 50 and then negotiate, or you can negotiate using the threat of Article 50.

A lifetime in business has taught me that negotiating a deal that suits everyone is more efficient than going nuclear and then starting from scratch.

Maybe it's uncharitable of me, but I have come to the conclusion that the enthusiasm for Article 50 is that it's a very simple solution needing no thought.

It's what comes after Article 50 that is going to be the hard part, but I sense that UKIP supporters will just say "Hey, we exercised Article 50, so now you can handle the details."

Average Englishman said...


Your analysis is perfectly logical at one level but I am afraid it does not take into account the following very important points.

1) No-one within the political structure of the other EU countries or the EUSSR itself would believe any such threat coming from Cameron. He has demonstrated time and again that he is a Europhile and just talks Eurosceptic to appease certain members of his party and hoodwink the UK voting public in general.

2) Even if UKIP were in Government and Nigel Farage were Prime Minister and such a threat could be believed; the fanatics running and supporting the EUSSR would still not negotiate anything sensible unless Article 50 had been used already. They would play for time and wriggle for all they were worth. Recent events concerning the Euro have shown that EU politicians have turned 'kicking the can down the road' into a new artform.

No, the UK will only get the correct attention that is required from its neighbours and the EUSSR commissars if it demonstrates beyond doubt that the UK will leave the EU unless the deal that we require is achieved. Over 40 years negotiating in business tells me this is the case. Henry Kissinger called it Realpolitik.

Having said this, I came to the conclusion long ago that no amount of sensible and reasonable negotiation will win back proper democratic control for the UK, following the initiation of Section 50 or otherwise, in the same way that it was effectively pointless negotiating with Adolph Hitler. That man had an agenda he was not about to change for a piece of paper and the EU federalists have the same mind set in my view. The UK must first leave the EU and only then will some common sense negotiations take place to agree a sensible way forward involving full control over the UK's territory retrurning to the UK's Parliament.

christina speight said...

John Livesey - You, in your own way, are missing the essentials. IF Article 50 is not invoked almost all the other countries will refuse to talk because 'anything for a quiet life'. All Cameron's twiddling with benefits is hideously convoluted and these only create ill-will and obfuscation. It is a classic ploy by Cameron, that arch-europhile, of blowing a smokescreen oner the whole issue. It is a 2015 election ploy only. His whole interest in reforming anything will evaporate if he gets back to Downing street

I'll bet that Hague and his bunch of europhiles in the FCO are busay right now soothing ruffled feathers with "Calm down - he's doing it only for the media. [the media swallow the ploy and regurgitate irt]

Anonymous said...

Jon Livesey do you have any concrete evidence of what UKIP is planning, perhaps you can tell us the plans of the three old parties as well, in any event it won't be ukip conlablibdum supporters who make any decision on the details because that will be politicians.

Negotiating a deal that suits us as shown with every anti british edict from the eussr is not possible without the threat of leaving because the unelected commission will just laugh at podgy ex eton and oxford tory boy, I sense that without UKIP article 50 will never be considered.