Brussels Set to Challenge Cameron's Plans to Cut Benefits to EU Migrants
Plans announced by British Prime Minister David Cameron to cut benefits to jobless immigrants may be illegal. On Tuesday the European Commission said it will examine the plans closely to see they comply with European Union law, which is superior to British law.
As Breitbart London reported on Monday Cameron said that his coalition government would cut the amount of time EU immigrants to Britain could claim unemployment benefit from six months to three.
The prime minister, writing in an article for the Daily Telegraph also said the UK will restrict -- though not stop -- the practice of EU-wide advertising for every job that goes through the Job Centre: “This is quite simply about putting British residents first,” he said.
However, the European Commission and the British government are already locked in a legal battle over an earlier attempt by the Cameron government to restrict immigrants’ access to benefits.
In May last year the commission announced it was taking the UK government to the European Court of Justice over the ‘right to reside’ test applied to EU migrants trying to access certain welfare benefits.
Now the commission will question the government’s plans to cut unemployment benefits for immigrants to three months, while British residents may claim for six.
The European Commission said Cameron's proposals will be "scrutinised" carefully once the details are clear: "[Migrant workers are] of immense economic benefit to the member states in terms, in particular of responding to skills gaps and labour shortages," a commission spokesperson said on Tuesday.
The commission spokesman also noted that jobseekers’ allowance for immigrants is normally paid by "the country where they were previously seeking work."
The London-based think tank Open Europe believes the government has a strong case. However, according to the Open Europe blog:
"The UK is at the very limit of what it can do within the confines of EU law.
"In order to keep this latest measure within the EU rules, it will only apply to new arrivals to the UK who have never worked in Britain.
"This is because under existing EU rules, people who have worked in the UK must be treated differently because they enjoy 'worker status' for at least six months.
"As others have noted the impact of this policy on the ground is therefore likely to be small as not many EU migrants will be affected.
"Unless this latest measure is followed up with reform of the underlying EU legislation, the UK government is in danger of chasing diminishing returns with the risk is that voters simply become desensitised to the flurry of crackdowns that make only piecemeal changes."