UK accused of cheating 'benefit tourists': another boost for UKIP
Brussels says UK is already discriminating against EU nationals – never mind Cameron's tough, new proposals
DAVID CAMERON could be forced to eat his own tough words on stopping "benefit tourism" after learning that the British government is in trouble with the EU Commission over a residency rule dating back nearly 10 years which, says Brussels, discriminates against EU nationals.
It was only in March that Cameron told an audience in Ipswich that he was going to get tough with EU scroungers attracted to the UK by free welfare benefits provided by British taxpayers.
Responding to fears of a flood of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria when rules are relaxed at the end of this year, he declared that Europeans will have to prove they are "genuinely seeking employment" to claim UK jobless benefits for more than six months.
Now, the BBC is reporting that, never mind the PM's new proposals, the EU Commission is launching "infringement proceedings" against Britain at the European Court of Justice over a "right to reside test" that has been place since it was introduced by Labour in 2004.
The Commission believes this test makes it more difficult for EU nationals to access social security than for UK nationals and is therefore illegal under EU law. For instance, a number of women who expected to be given welfare support when they became pregnant after working in Britain were apparently denied help.
Spin-doctors for Welfare Secretary Iain Duncan Smith have tried to assure the BBC that IDS "will not cave in" to the Commission over its court action regarding this heinous crime. IDS, they said, is determined to limit "benefit tourism".
The reason for this coming up now is that a complaint has been made by the Centre for Individual Rights in Europe.
The problem for Cameron and IDS is that the public can now see that all their tough words on Europe are so much hot air.
Peter Lilley, the Tory MP who was social security secretary under John Major, said it was an example of the EU Commission seeking to extend its powers over social security rules in the UK and should be resisted.
"We are not alone in Europe in objecting to this," Lilley told Radio 4's Today programme. "It does strengthen the case for David Cameron seeking to get power back to this country to make our own laws rather than for this creeping competence of law-making being extended to Brussels even in areas where every country has decided it should be reserved for itself."
This quasi-legal farce will only give strength to those Tory supporters already flocking to the anti-Europe UKIP party. And it should help guarantee a massive Tory turn-out for the backbench EU referendum bill next month.
PS: A word of comfort for Brussels-bashers – it's not only Britain that's in trouble today. The EU Commission is threatening legal action against Spain for allowing some hospitals to refuse to recognise the European Health Insurance Card, which is supposed to entitle all EU citizens to free healthcare when they overdo the sangria. ·