David Cameron and Europe at odds over benefit tourism issue

A row erupted on Monday between David Cameron and Brussels after Downing Street said a European commission report showing that more than 600,000 EU citizens in Britain are classified as “non-active” highlighted the pull factor of Britain’s generous welfare system.

The commission said that No 10 had “completely failed” to prove that the UK benefits system was being abused, and argued that EU nationals acted as a net benefit to Britain.

Jonathan Todd, the spokesman for the European employment commissioner, László Andor, told the Guardian: “They have completely failed to come up with any specific evidence that there is systematic or widespread abuse of the system. On the contrary, EU nationals are net contributors to the UK welfare system. They pay more in tax and social security contributions than they receive in benefits. So the more EU migrants you have the better off the UK welfare system is.”

Downing Street dismissed the criticisms. The prime minister’s spokesman said: “The European commission isn’t in charge of our immigration policy. The British government is, and I can tell you what the British government is doing.”

The commission attacked Downing Street after No 10 seized on a report, due to be published this week by Andor, which showed that there are 611,779 “non-active” EU migrants living in Britain. The prime minister’s spokesman said in response to the report, which was leaked to the Sunday Telegraph: “There is widespread concern in this country and actually in other countries around issues that are in this area. This government does have a very active agenda around reducing the so called ‘pull factors’ on this. The 600,000 includes groups such as children and students and the like, but nonetheless there is widespread concern.”

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