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30.05.13

UK accused of discrimination against EU citizens

The UK is to be taken to the European Court of Justice over assessments for EU migrants entitled to receive benefits in the UK.

An extra residency test, the right-to-reside, allegedly breaches EU law by restricting access to benefits for people from the EU living and working in the UK.

The charity Advice on Individual Rights in Europe’s legal director Adam Weiss told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “British and Irish citizens always pass this so-called right-to-reside test.

“Other EU citizens do not always pass that test and as a result they are often refused certain benefits in circumstances when British citizens and Irish citizens would receive them.

“What EU law says is that in relation to these benefits, discrimination based on nationality is prohibited so it is not fair, it is not lawful, to discriminate, to favour British and Irish citizens on the one hand and to discriminate against citizens of other EU member states on the other hand.”

Former social security secretary Peter Lilley, who introduced the residence test, told the Today programme: “The European Commission is now saying that our Jobseeker's Allowance is not social assistance, even the non-contributory bit of it. That seems to me flying in the face of their own rules, but in any case is an attempt by them to extend their competence into areas where the treaties say they shouldn't be involved.

“To extend it to others would be costly, unwelcome, undemocratic, not approved by Parliament and I hope we will strongly resist this.

“It does strengthen the case for David Cameron seeking to get power back to this country to make our own laws rather than allowing this creeping competence of law-making being extended to Brussels, even in areas where every single country decided it should be reserved for itself.”

The Government has recently announced new plans to further restrict welfare for EU citizens living in the UK; including making short-term migrants pay for NHS care and requiring landlords to check immigration status.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Image c. European Parliament

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