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Tuesday 5 March 2013

Benefit Tourism – Or Maybe Not

The prospect of a new drain on our welfare state is simply unaffordable” thunders the preposterously self-important Simon Heffer today in response to the command of his legendarily foul mouthed editor to kick those rotten Eurocrats and the mythical hordes of Bulgarians and Romanians lined up waiting for the EU starting gun. Sadly, his research is as shaky as the logic of his prose.

Anyone reading the Hefferlump’s latest rant – “Defy the EU and stamp out benefit tourism” – would readily form the impression that anyone from another EU member state could just fetch up in the UK and immediately sidle along to the nearest payout window to demand whatever benefits would magically become available to them. That would not be an accident.

So what’s the reality of the situation? Sadly for Heffer and his editor, but unsurprisingly, his claim is substantially bogus. Anyone coming to the UK must pass the Habitual Residency Test to qualify for Income Support or Housing Benefit, for instance. Those from Romania and Bulgaria have to already be in “authorised employment” to qualify.

As recently as 2011 – well after the accession of countries such as Poland to the EU – those claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance from other EU member states was about 2.5% of the total. Those from what were termed the A8 countries (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and so on) were less than 1% of the total. And the idea that the UK provides the most generous benefits is equally bogus.

That assertion was exposed as false by a Channel 4 Fact Check, noting two studies, one of which concluded that the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Luxembourg, Finland and Denmark were more generous, and another which said that Ireland, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands worked out better. So if internal EU migrants want the best benefits, they wouldn’t choose the UK.

And, as has had to be pointed out once again, the European Commission (EC) has not somehow commanded the UK to make a range of benefits available to migrants from other member states. Quite the opposite is true: the Habitual Residency Test is supported by it. The “benefit tourism” meme has long since been shown to be false, yet some pundits insist on maintaining the pretence.

Why should that be? Well, Romanians and Bulgarians are by definition not the Daily Mail’s Kind Of People. This has been decided by Paul Dacre, and the idea is to be reinforced by regular demonisation from his dubiously talented array of otherwise unemployable pundits, who would rather do as they are told rather than tell readers that this particular world is not flat.

After all, the money’s good, and nobody else is offering. No change there, then.

1 comment:

Audacity said...

In today's Times, Tory MP, Dominic Raab is claiming that there are 551 thousand unemployed EU citizens in the UK with 146 thousand of them having never worked. I wonder where he gets these statistics from because they don't tally with any of the statistics that I am aware of.