EU benefits are ‘land grab’ by Brussels, says Duncan Smith

The EU Commissioner for employment and social affairs, Laszlo Andor, is taking the British government to court over what it says are discriminatory practices in its application of regulations on welfare payments.

The EU Commissioner for employment and social affairs, Laszlo Andor, is taking the British government to court over what it says are discriminatory practices in its application of regulations on welfare payments.

EU foreign nationals living in the UK are eligible to claim welfare benefits if they pass the qualifying tests. One of these is the test of ‘habitual residence’ which should be applied in the EU.

Instead, however, the UK requires EU nationals to pass a more challenging ‘right to reside’ test, which many fail.

Iain Duncan Smith, work and pensions secretary (pictured) has stated that Britain will resist this attempted “land grab” by Europe, in a bid to end “benefit tourism” to the UK.

In the run up to the next general election, and following a hypothetical outright Conservative election win, this represents a crucial battle for Tories. They have committed to an ‘in/out’ referendum in 2017 if attempts to win back powers from Brussels cannot be negotiated.

Curiously Nick Clegg has supported Duncan Smith’s upcoming battle  in the European Court of Justice, seeing it as protecting the UK welfare benefits system from becoming a “free for all”.

EU nationals working in the UK have complained to the commissioner of having access to family welfare and unemployment benefits denied despite having the right to live and work in the UK. Duncan Smith can claim that Britain is not alone in finding the European welfare benefit rules unfair, as wealthier countries Holland, Austria and Germany have also challenged the rules.

Restrictions on the rights of EU national from Romania and Bulgaria will be lifted at the end of this year, fuelling fears that people from the more impoverished European nations could flock to the UK, or wealthier UK nations, to claim benefits.

One Response to “EU benefits are ‘land grab’ by Brussels, says Duncan Smith”

  1. Gareth Millward

    Why can I not get ANY statistical information from the DWP website on the amount of benefit payments made to EU nationals?

    The only reference I can find is in a speech by David Cameron, where apparently 7% of working-age EU nationals in this country claim benefit (17% of UK nationals do) (BBC). In 2009, 4m people from other EU countries lived here, or 6.6% of the population (Guardian).

    Working age benefits cost the government £50b, with children receiving another £1b. (DWP1)

    Please pick me apart on my use of statistics if this is wrong, but I’m failing to see why the government is making such a big deal out of this – there is nothing stopping British people doing exactly the same thing in other EU countries (many of which have far more generous social security systems).

    We can only do crude maths here, but 7% of 4m (EU population) is 0.28m. 17% of the rest of the population (c. 56m) is 9.52m. So, crudely, EU migrants comprise 3% of working age claimants (even if we assume all EU migrants are of working age).

    3% of the working-age and child welfare bill = £1.5b.

    Even if we say that £1.5b is the “drain” EU citizens have on our system (which would ignore their National Insurance and tax contributions), £1.3b worth of UNDER payments are made by DWP each year as a result of official error. (DWP2)

    I have to conclude that EU nationals really aren’t causing THAT much of a drain on the economy or social security compared to other things. It’s almost like the Tories are posturing over this rather than solving the real problem – i.e., the economy is fucked.

    BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21921089
    Guardian – http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/sep/07/immigration-europe-foreign-citizens
    DWP1 – http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd4/index.php?page=expenditure
    DWP2 – http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd2/index.php?page=fraud_error

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