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Yesterday Britain received backing for the right to refuse to pay family welfare benefits to EU migrants who are unemployed. The backing came from Europe’s top judges and it states that any EU migrant who has been settled within the UK for under five years can’t receive funding if they are out of work.
This ruling was decided by the European court of justice, confirming that the actual rules from the EU regarding free movement don’t stop Britain or any other EU membered country from withholding access to welfare benefits if immigrants are unable to support themselves or be employed
Furthermore, the judges in Luxembourg also disregarded a challenge from the European commission that argued Britain’s decision to enforce a right to reside test on EU immigrants before they could actually claim child related benefits or credits was discriminatory and against the EU directive’s ethos. The court judged that there was no evidence in the EU’s social security directives that stopped Britain from imposing their own conditions that migrants need to be a legal resident before they have the right to any welfare benefits.
It is believed this decision will have even wider consequences. It is being anticipated that several challenges to the Prime Minister’s ‘emergency brake’ policy will arise from a number of parties including the Polish Government. Under this plan, any arriving EU immigrants will be blocked from obtaining social security benefits for the first four years they reside in the UK.
In light of the news, migration expert Marley Morris at the Institute of Public Policy Research stated that this was yet another sign that rulings are being more sympathetic to Britain’s interpretation of the free movement policy. He said, ‘there are no guarantees that this will last for ever, and future judgments may go against the UK. Conversely, a vote for Brexit on 23 June is likely to create its own legal quagmire, as the subsequent negotiations will have to resolve the free movement rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK and UK citizens currently living in other EU countries in a fair and consistent way.’
Anthea McIntrye MEP, the conservative spokesman for the European Parliament described the news as ‘a victory for the UK and for common sense. It vindicates the prime minister’s stance, which has always been that free movement means freedom to work, not to claim benefits. The commission may have attempted to dictate to Britain, but it has been put in its place by the EU’s own institutions.’
HMRC’s government spokesman also added, ‘The UK welcomes the Court of Justice of the European Union’s judgment, which supports our view that we are entitled to ensure only EU migrants who have a right to be in the UK can claim our benefits.’
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