On Tuesday 24 June 2016 the ECJ ruled on a challenge to the UK’s right to deny some EU migrants child benefit and child tax credits. The case ruling relates to those migrants from the EU who are not legally resident and are “economically inactive”. The ECJ found that if this is the case then the UK is permitted to restrict the rights of such migrants and their family members to claim child benefit and child tax credits.
The judges rejected the Commission’s argument that in checking whether the claimants of these benefits were legally resident, the UK discriminated against foreign EU workers. The Commission argued that these checks were not carried out on British citizens. Although the judges did acknowledge a possible inequality in the treatment they said that it was proportional to securing the legitimate objective of protecting a member state’s finances.
The ruling itself focused on a complex and technical point of law but the outcome of the Judgment is significant with regards to the practical application. It also gave the stamp of approval on Britain’s current immigration system. This was the first of a number of anticipated challenges to what the Prime Minister has dubbed “benefit tourism” and may be an indication as to the stance that the ECJ will adopt.