UK should not be forced to pay welfare to EU citizens without a right to reside, says think tank IPPR

 
James Nickerson
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The IPPR has spoken out against EU citizens' entitlement to UK benefits (Source: Getty)

The UK should not have to pay welfare to EU citizens that do not have the right to reside, a think tank has said.

Ahead of the European Court of Justice judgement (ECJ) on the UK's "right to reside" test for claiming certain family benefits, expected tomorrow, the IPPR has said the EU citizens should not be entitled to welfare benefits if they (and their family members) are not economically active and not able to support themselves.

The European Commission brought a case against the UK, arguing that our test discriminates against EU citizens.

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However, the think tank said that the UK is right to defend the case, and expects the ECJ to back the UK.

Marley Morris, research fellow at IPPR, said: "Barring a major upset, the European Court of Justice’s decision tomorrow is likely to back the UK’s right to reside test. This is another sign – on top of other recent ECJ judgments – that it is becoming more sympathetic to the UK’s interpretation of free movement rules.

"But 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."

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The judgement is likely to be picked up by both the Leave and Remain campaign ahead of the referendum.

IPPR pointed out that assuming the case is dismissed, the judgement will show that the EU’s free movement rules do not prevent member states from taking action to block access to benefits for migrants who are not economically active and cannot support themselves.

It will also strengthen the argument that the future reforms to free movement and welfare rules – as agreed in the EU renegotiation – will not be rolled back by the EU court.

But, despite the judgement probably going in the UK’s favour, it is likely to also remind voters that aspects of the UK’s welfare system are subject to EU law.

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