European court rules the UK can refuse benefits to EU migrants, providing a last-minute boost for remain
The UK has won a crucial case in The European Court of Justice allowing it to deny family benefits to EU migrants if they are not in work.
This is good news for the remain campaign, and especially for David Cameron, who sought a renegotiation of benefits for EU citizens as part of his new deal for the UK.
In general, European Union law states that members cannot discriminate between their own citizens and those from other European countries, and the European Commission based its challenge on this principle. The court found that while the UK does appear to have two different welfare standards, the UK has a right to protect its public finances. “There is nothing to prevent, in principle, the grant of social benefits to Union citizens who are not economically active,” the court ruled, economically active referring to either being employed or actively looking for a job. Moreover, the court said that the UK has a right to test whether welfare claimants are “habitually resident” in the UK.
The court ruling applies to all EU member states as well.
The win comes at a critical moment as the EU referendum debate heats up with just over a week to go. It is welcome news for the remain campaign, as in the polls leave has taken a lead in the past few days. Welfare reform for EU migrants was one of four areas David Cameron went to Brussels with and did walk away with a concession on. The court ruling shows that there is compromise available in Europe – even on the thorny issue of freedom of movement – and that the UK can indeed impose benefits restrictions on EU citizens.
As the losing party, the European Commission will have to pay for all UK legal fees.