An opinion has been issued by the European Court of Justice, stating that the United Kingdom is guilty of indirect discrimination based on a person’s nationality. The opinion states that the refusal of social assistance to an EU citizen who has been granted settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme is indirect discrimination.
This opinion is a result of a case brought by a Dutch-Croatian woman, who claims her refusal of Universal Credit by the Department of Communities in June 2020 constituted different treatment to that of British citizens and therefore discrimination. The woman who is living in Northern Ireland had her application refused despite her holding settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, granting her a right of residence.
The question referred by the NI Appeal Tribunal to the European Court of Justice asked whether this refusal of social benefits constituted direct or indirect discrimination under EU law based on the EU citizens’ right of residence.
Although the United Kingdom has now left the European Union Jean Richard de la Tour, the Advocate General stated that due to the cases time scale that covered before and after the transition period, the ECJ was within their remit to issue a ruling. The case was submitted some days before the transition period ended, leading to the Advocate General reiterating that EU citizens held the right to freely move and reside in an EU member state.
This right includes an economically inactive individual and to depressive them of assistance based on their right of residence, which would affect EU nationals disproportionality more than UK nations, this would result in indirect discrimination. As the Advocate General states:
“beyond what is necessary to maintain the equilibrium of the social assistance system of the host Member State if the refusal of such assistance has a greater effect on or affects a greater number of, the nationals of other MS than those of the host State.”
This opinion is now given to the referring court for them to rule whether the refusal of social assistance impacts non-UK nationals more than British nationals.
For more information contact our immigration team: