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As the British political debate continues on whether the British government should try to impose a four-year ban on EU migrant citizens claiming in-work benefits, a new Oxford University study argues that rather than pursuing treaty change, more 'constructive' thinking could ease the financial burden on British taxpayers.

Study author Professor Martin Seeleib-Kaiser, from the Oxford Institute of Social Policy, says one solution could be to set up an EU fund for helping local authorities most affected by immigration. He also highlights the relatively lax access to NHS services that EU citizens enjoy in Britain compared with other EU member states.

Overall, the study says the British welfare state is not radically different from other welfare states in providing benefits and services for EU migrant citizens, as benefits and services of primary importance to EU migrant citizens of working age are largely tax-financed, even in those countries that otherwise tend to rely on social insurance contributions as preconditions for benefits or services.

The study suggests that the British government could seek financial aid from European Structural Funds, to support those local authorities whose local services were most affected by immigration. The Structural Funds, designed to reduce regional disparities in income, wealth and opportunities, could include a pot earmarked as the European Citizenship and Mobility Fund, suggests Professor Seeleib-Kaiser, with local authorities applying for these EU funds. He points out that Germany is already making use of the European Social Fund to support the integration of EU migrant citizens, for example, to pay for language classes or the housing and education requirements of EU migrants in Germany. 

Read more on the University website (opens new window)