Brexit: Number of EU citizens claiming benefits doubled during pandemic – ‘We are worried’ | UK | News
In comparison, the figure stood at just 380,000 in November 2019.
Claims from migrants from some nations that acceded into the Brussels bloc in 2004 and 2007 stood even higher than the overall average.
Claims from Romania and Bulgaria more than trebled – taking the figure from 66,00 to 190,000 among so-called EU2 citizens.
Madeleine Sumption, Oxford University’s director of Migration Observatory, told the Telegraph: “EU migrants were hit hardest in the pandemic because of their concentration in hospitality and retail which closed down for long periods.
“There’s a pretty substantial increase in out-of-work claims for EU citizens.”
Citizens from the European Union who obtained a settled status remain eligible to claim benefits and furlough under the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement with the Brussels bloc.
According to a read-out from the UK’s Department for Exiting the European Union, Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal ensures “citizens who have moved between the UK and the EU, or those who have interacted with the social security of the UK and a Member State, before the end of the implementation period are not disadvantaged in their access to pensions, benefits and other forms of social security including healthcare cover.”
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A Government spokesman has since said: “We toughened the benefit rules when we left the EU.
“But reflecting the contribution EU citizens made in the UK, a limited number of UK benefits can, in certain circumstances, continue to be paid in the EU.
“This is reciprocal and does not include Universal Credit, which has only ever been payable to those in the UK.”
Among UK nationals, the number of people claiming working-age benefits increased by 34 percent – from around 1million to 1.6million.
While data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) appears to show there has been a net exodus of 107,000 EU migrants to the mainland continent, the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue & Customs are unable to say how many migrants are funnelling cash into Europe.
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One independent expert said: “What no one knows is the number who might have departed the UK to see out the pandemic in their home countries, and failed to tell HMRC or DWP that they have left.
“This could have made payments abroad very much larger than the usual small percentage.
“The suspension of most in-person interactions at job centres during lockdowns will have made this possible and equally made it very difficult for the departments to make any estimate of how many might have done so.”
The Telegraph reports a senior source as saying: “This is an issue we are worried about.
“There are 6.2million EU nationals who have access to benefits, tax cuts, furlough during the pandemic.
“This money can often be claimed by those who have returned home to another country, which may not be fair or sustainable in the long run.
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“It’s something we are going to have a look at.”
A source for HMRC also told the broadsheet: “While we record the addresses of furlough claims, these wouldn’t necessarily reflect if someone travelled after the claim.
“We don’t track in our published statistics whether someone is an EU national.”
A source from the DWP added: “There are not published statistics on benefits paid in the EU to people with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.”
Alp Mehmet, chairman of the independent Tufton Street advocacy group Migration Watch UK, said: “It will strike those who pay into the system as absolutely ridiculous that people are able to claim for welfare, or benefit from furlough, from abroad.
“This is the kind of thing that people voted to take back control to end.”
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