The EU's European Commission [official website] on Sunday announced plans to sue the UK with respect to its welfare policies, under which migrants must pass a "right to reside" test in order to gain access to the government's welfare programs. The "right to reside" test requires migrants from other EU countries to prove that they are seeking work before they can claim benefits. The action is being brought [RT report] by the office of Laszlo Andor [official website], the EU Commissioner for social affairs and employment. Andor reportedly argues the test is discriminatory on grounds that British citizens are not required to take it. The test was first introduced by the Labour Party in an attempt to ease concerns over "benefit tourists" who might otherwise take advantage of the country's benefits system, one of the most generous and accessible welfare programs in the EU. If the UK loses the case, it may face multi-million pound fines for not complying with EU rules, or it will be forced to change the law.
The timing of the lawsuit is believed by some to be "politically explosive" as it is being introduced ahead of the May EU elections. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) [party website] is said to likely use the lawsuit in its election campaign by urging voters to vote in favor of pulling out of the EU to regain control of its welfare budget. In November, the UK House of Commons approved of a bill [JURIST report] that will order a nationwide referendum in 2017 to determine whether the UK will remain within the EU. Twenty MPs of the Conservative Party [official website] urged Cameron [JURIST report] in May to expedite a nationwide referendum in response to results from local elections earlier that month in which the UKIP, a group with a focus on removing UK ties to the EU, received 26 percent of the vote in county polls [Sky News report]. Cameron had previously guaranteed [JURIST report] in January that if his party were to win the next election in 2015, the Tories would then push legislation for the referendum. This is not the first time, however, that the UK has considered such a proposal. In 2011, Parliament voted 483-111 against holding a national referendum[JURIST report] on remaining a member of the EU. If that proposal had been approved, the referendum would have put forward three options for a vote: to remain in the EU, to leave the EU, or to re-negotiate membership terms.