By Brandon Lewis - 9th July 2012
Conservative MP Brandon Lewis urges the UK to "stand firm" and resist the attempts of the European Court of Justice to "open up our generous benefit system to a wave of migrants".
Britain’s relationship and position within the European Union is an issue which has received more than its fair share of media coverage in recent months. Debates over the euro debt crisis and whether Britain should hold a referendum on its membership of the EU have dominated newspaper columns; however the issue of European benefit tourism seems to have escaped any coverage. This week, however, has seen a fresh bid launched from the Government to crackdown on foreigners from other European Union countries entering the UK to take advantage of our generous benefit system.
On Friday Chris Grayling reiterated the Government’s position on the cost of migrants to our economy and the need to address this issue before it spirals out of control. Britain currently has a rule which prevents other EU nationals claiming benefits in the UK; however the European Commission is trying to force the UK to change the current regulations. The ruling by the European Court of Justice would open up our generous benefit system to a wave of European migrants who would then be eligible to move to the country and claim one of the many welfare benefits available in Britain. I am very proud of the fact that we, as a nation, have a welfare system that enshrines individuals a base level of welfare; ensuring that no matter how bad things get the state will be there to help you through the tough times. I am, however, very much enraged by the constant abuse this generous system is subject to and can’t help but think that this new rule will have a catastrophic effect on our benefit system. Estimates highlight that this form of benefit tourism would cost the British taxpayer over £2 billion a year – going to support people who have moved to the country with no British ties and who have never contributed to the UK tax system. This move not only threatens national sovereignty but also the vital link between the taxpayer and its own Government.
I welcome the steps this Government is taking to crackdown on domestic benefit fraud, but I fear this latest demand from EU bureaucrats could ruin all the good work already carried out by the coalition to reduce our massively inflated welfare budget. If the European Court of Justice upholds this ruling then the economically inactive will be able to move freely between EU member states just to claim benefits, which in turn could be used to reside permanently in the UK. During a period when budgets are tight and our national Government is making some tough decisions on spending the last thing we need is an additional burden of benefit tourists coming into the UK to abuse our welfare system.
I am encouraged to see Chris Grayling speak out on this and bring the issue back into the media spotlight; however this is only the first step. We need to join with other EU nations to stand strong on this issue – Austria, Germany, Sweden and Holland are all in agreement with us on this. If we work together to stress the catastrophic impact this will have on our individual and joint economies, we will have a much stronger voice. I will certainly be supporting Mr Grayling in his bid to block benefit tourism and sincerely hope I will be joined by others in my efforts.