The European Commission is launching legal action against the UK, which it believes discriminates against EU citizens by making them pass an additional test to prove their rights to benefits. The UK says it will fight to keep the extra test.
The UK’s so-called ‘right to reside’ test is discriminatory to EU
citizens, leading to thousands being denied benefits, such as a
child tax credit and jobseeker’s allowance, according to European
Commission, which is taking the case to the European Court
of Justice in Luxembourg.
The EC believes the standard EU test to tell if a migrant is
eligible for welfare payments is enough and any extra testing is
an infringement on EU citizens’ rights.
“We are asking the UK to change its resident permit test
because it is a discrimination against other EU citizens in our
open internal market,” said an EU source cited by Reuters.
It’s not the first time the UK has been criticized for its ‘right
to reside’ test. Britain was already told to put an end to the
practice in 2011. However, it did not give up on the extra
testing then and it now promises to fight for it.
“The right-to-reside part of our habitual residence test is a
vital and fair tool to ensure that benefits are only paid to
people who are legally allowed to live in Britain. We have always
been clear that we believe our rules are in line with EU law. If
the commission decides to begin legal proceedings, we will fight
vigorously to ensure that our benefit system is protected from
abuse by migrants,” said spokesman for the Department for
Work and Pensions, as cited by the Guardian.
Peter Lilley, the Conservative MP and former minister in charge
of social security at the time when the controversial testing was
introduced, said in an interview to the BBC that the legal action
by the EU is an attempt “to extend their competence into areas
where the treaties say they shouldn’t be involved.”
The legal battle in Luxembourg looms at a time when debate over
leaving the EU is becoming more and more acute in the UK. Prime
Minister Cameron promised that if he is reelected in 2015 a
referendum would be held on Britain’s membership in the EU not
later than 2017.
This year’s Queen’s Speech earlier in May contained a number of
new measures aimed at curbing immigration to the UK, especially
from poorer EU nations such as Romania and Bulgaria.
Among those is a six-month restriction to the jobseeker’s
allowance, which will apply to all EU nationals unable to prove
they are actively seeking employment and have a genuine chance of
This article originally appeared on: RT