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We CAN’T cut migrant benefits: Barmy Euro court risks Cameron’s plan to slash handouts

DAVID Cameron’s plan to block EU migrants from drawing benefits in Britain has suffered a blow at the hands of European lawyers.
By Martyn Brown
David-Cameron-582337David Cameron’s plan to EU migrants from getting benefits may be blocked

The European Court of Justice signalled that jobless migrants should be entitled to state handouts if they can prove they came to the UK to work.

However EU advocate ­general Melchior Wathelet has advised that unemployed migrants should only have to wait three months before they are entitled to social benefits.

This goes against Mr Cameron’s promise to refuse benefits to anyone from the EU who has not worked in the UK for four years – the centrepiece of his demand for a return of powers from Brussels.

Last night Ukip warned the renegotiations were “hitting the rocks”. Under freedom of movement rules, EU citizens are currently entitled to benefits in the host country.

Ministers say handouts to jobless migrants could cost more than £150million a year unless benefit tourism is restricted.

The PM wants his key reform in place ahead of an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, which he wants to take place before the end of 2017.

His plans have already received a mixed reaction in Europe, with Germany generally supportive in the face of French and Polish opposition.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice is the highest ­legal body in the EU.

It made the announcement following a case ­involving a Spanish national who was excluded from social benefits in Germany during the first three months of his stay, despite seeking work.

In a legal opinion given to the court, Mr Wathelet said that an EU citizen in another EU country “may not automatically be refused the benefits in question” if they have worked there before.

But he added: “Granting entitlement to social assistance to EU citizens who are not required to have sufficient means of subsistence could result in relocation en masse.

“(This is) liable to create an unreasonable burden on national social security systems.

“Moreover, while persons arriving in a host member state may have personal links with other EU citizens already residing there, the link with the member state is in all likelihood limited in that initial period.”

Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of the pressure group Migration Watch, said the statement would prove to be another stumbling block in the Prime Minister’s renegotiation of powers with Brussels.

“This is a very clear indication of what the Prime Minister will be up against in trying to renegotiate the current arrangements,” he said. “It does not bode well.

“This is very much going to be an uphill struggle for him. Let us hope he is able to get enough support for the changes he wants.”

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the ruling was worrying and warned that the only way to totally stop benefits tourism was to quit the EU altogether. He said: “Renegotiation is clearly hitting the rocks.


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