Seldom do I agree with the right, or these days with Nick Clegg.
But it does seem to me that the benefit rules could seriously be improved. Not because, as we know, it’s much of an economic problem, but because it’s become a political problem. Benefits have little to do with the free movement of people and labour, and I will always support that.
I’m not sure, though, that a simplistic time delay is quite the right answer. As a European, I have a feeling that what’s needed is a Directive harmonising the benefit rules across the Union. Hardly something that the Eurosceptics will love, but it’s a neat political answer that pro-Europeans should be championing. Europe solves a European problem.
There’s room for plenty of debate about how it should work. Perhaps something like this:
– Member states decide the levels of social security benefits for their own country
– Directive sets out certain minimum and maximum criteria for entitlements.
– Entitlement must not be discriminatory, that citizens of all member states must have the same entitlement to benefits in every member state;
– criteria for entitlements must meet certain minima but could include a residence requirement. NB not a citizenship requirement, that would be discriminatory.
– the residence requirement could not exceed a level set by the Directive, (3 months to five years have already been suggested; I’d go for six months).
– this needn’t be a country, could apply to a local authority. So if I move to London from say Newcastle I shouldn’t be able to get housing benefit or JSA until I’ve lived there six months.
– the same applies if I move to London from Bucharest or Sofia.
– But I should be able to apply to my local government to take my benefits with me for the same amount of time, so say I was on the dole in Romania, I could ask them to send the same money to me in London until I was entitled to London dole. Or I got a job, whichever was the first.