It was always agreed in the EU that welfare systems should be under national control.Even Labour, when giving away 138 vetoes over important policy areas, kept a red line around welfare. Decisions about how much to pay, and to whom, were to be made by national Parliaments and governments. The UK signed up to the free movement of workers, not to the free movement of benefit seekers.
I have been urging the UK government for some time to head off this threat. One way would be to make all benefits in the UK contribution based. If you either had to enjoy an education here, or have worked for five years paying UK taxes, before you qualified for any benefit, the EU would find it more difficult to intervene.
As the governemnt has chosen not to go that route, but to assert that the EU has no right to demand we pay benefits to more people than currently qualify, it might help to buttress its case.
The EU is foolish to choose to challenge the Uk over such a sensitive matter at this juncture, when many UK citizens are keen on a new relationship with the EU or want to leave the EU tomorrow without even negotiating a new deal.This bureaucratic interference sums up what so many of us dislike about the EU. They say they need to control our benefits systems to have a fair single market. Curious that. China and the USA trade with us quite happily, but we do not try to control their benefit systems, nor do they instruct us on how big our welfare bill should be.
I suggest the government might like to underwrite its strong view that welfare is none of the EU’s business by a simple short Bill. This Bill could be an amendment to the 1972 European Communities Act, stating categorically that welfare is a UK issue and instructing the UK courts that the UK government will neither appear in the ECJ nor accept its judgement on welfare matters. Welfare payments should be decided here.