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UK can restrict benefits to EU workers, court rules

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UK can restrict benefits to EU workers, court rules

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  • UK can deny some child benefits to non-resident EU workers
  • European Commission claimed this was discriminatory
  • “Justified to protect public finances” – European Court of Justice.

    What has happened?

The UK can continue to restrict child benefits for some EU workers who are not legally resident in the UK and have children living in another member state.

European judges have ruled the procedure cannot be considered discriminatory and can be implemented to protect public finances.

Challenge denied

Judges at the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice, rejected a challenge to the UK’s right to deny child benefit and child tax credits to some EU migrants.

They say the UK government can deny family allowances to some foreign workers who are not legally resident and who have children living abroad.

European Commission challenge

The European Commission had argued that the British process of checking whether child benefit and child tax credit claimants were legally resident in the UK discriminates against foreign EU workers.

This is because British citizens are not checked in this way.

The European Court of Justice

The European Court of Justice acknowledged the rule making allowances conditional on the right to reside in Britain could amount to discrimination.

However, it concluded it could be justified by the need to protect public finances.

What does this mean?

It means the UK can lawfully withhold benefits to EU migrants living on its territory but who have children living abroad.

However, this is only the case if the migrants do not have the right to reside in the UK.

Will the UK government welcome the decision?

It is very likely, yes.

Benefit curbs were a “hot button issue” for Prime Minister David Cameron during renegotiations with the EU completed earlier this year.

It comes ahead of a referendum on EU membership in the UK, due to be held on June 23.

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