BREAKING: ECJ Thrown Out Challenge To Benefit Restrictions For EU Migrants

ECJ Ruling and EU Migrants

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has thrown out the European Commission’s challenge to the UK Government’s right to restrict EEA nationals access to child tax credits and the child benefit stating it was justified by the need to protect Britain’s public finances.

Right to reside

Under new rules, only EEA nationals who have a ‘lawful right to reside’ can access public funds.  The European Commission claimed that by imposing a ‘right to reside’ test for certain family benefits such as the child benefit, EU citizens from states outside Britain are being directly discriminated against.  It argues that ‘habitual residence’ should be sufficient grounds for a family to receive public funds.

However, the court said the condition might amount to "unequal treatment" but did not go beyond what is necessary to attain the "legitimate objective" of protecting a member's state finances.

"The Court rejects the Commission's principal argument, that the UK legislation imposes a condition supplementing that of habitual residence contained in the regulation," it ruled.

"There is nothing to prevent the grant of social benefits to EU citizens who are not economically active being made subject to the requirement that those citizens fulfil the conditions for possessing a right to reside lawfully in the host member state."
More challenges to come
This unsuccessful challenge from the EU Commission is expected to be the first of many.  The initiative to restrict EEA migrants access to public funds is designed to discourage ‘benefit tourism’ and give the Government some control over EU freedom of movement.

The Polish Government and many others, especially from Eastern Europe, are expected to challenge David Cameron’s emergency brake mechanism, under which new EU migrants will be denied access to in-work welfare benefits and tax credits during their first four years in the UK.

EU Referendum

The judgment has been picked up and used to the best advantage by Remain supporters. They have stated that the judgment clearly demonstrates 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.

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