The European Union has threatened to sue the UK if the British government do not relax their benefit rules. Currently EU nationals must pass a “right to reside” test in order to claim the generous welfare benefits available. The EU argues that the UK criteria is too tough and ought to come in line with the more generous EU rules.
For many years now, there has been an open border system in operation between the member states of the European Union, and this has made travel between the nations readily accessible. As the EU has expanded in recent years, to allow less affluent nations to enter, nations like the UK have been anxious to stem the tide of EU wide immigration.
When Poland joined the EU in 2004, over 600,000 Polish economic migrants came to the UK. This massive wave of immigration was not supported in improvements to health care provision and school places. As a consequence some areas are struggling to cope with the massive influx of people seeking to access services.
As a consequence, the UK government has sought to limit EU immigration, especially since other eastern European nations have become members. If the EU is successful in changing the UK rules, it will cost the UK government an extra £2.5 billion, at a time when the government is seeking to drastically reduce the nations welfare bill.
The British government are incensed by this interference from Brussels, with the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, saying “These new proposals pose a fundamental challenge to the UK’s social contract. They could mean the British taxpayer paying out over £2 billion extra a year in benefits to people who have no connection to our country and who have never paid-in a penny in tax.
“This threatens to break the vital link which should exist between taxpayers and their own government.” He added: “I sense this is part of a wider movement, coming in the same week as the proposals for a financial transactions tax across Europe, which threatens to punish UK banks by decreasing their competitiveness abroad.”
Brussels have given the UK two months to comply, or the nation will be taken to the European Court, although Britain has been supported by France and Germany in opposing this move.