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Immigration policy 'under threat'

The threat of legal action by the European Commission over Britain's restrictions on benefits for migrants risks "blowing the Government's immigration policy out of the water", campaigners have said.

The ruling that the UK's "right to reside" test on EU nationals based in the country is a breach of EU law is "an open invitation to benefit tourism", the campaign group Migration Watch UK said.

It comes as Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith warned the move could leave taxpayers facing a £2 billion bill.

He told the Daily Telegraph the move threatened to break the "vital link" which should exist between taxpayers and their own government.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch, added: "This ruling is an open invitation to benefit tourism. A three-child family would receive £29,000 in benefits. Clearly this risks blowing the Government's immigration policy out of the water. It must be vigorously opposed."

Brussels threatened it will take legal action unless the test - which determines who qualifies for specific social security benefits - is dropped.

A Commission statement said the Government has two months to advise Brussels what it is doing to bring domestic social security rules in line with EU requirements. "Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the UK to the EU's Court of Justice," it said in a statement.

Mr Duncan Smith is currently spearheading reforms to the country's benefits system, bringing in the Universal Credit.

He said: "The EU settlement is supposed to protect the right of member states to make their own social security arrangements. But we are now seeing a rising tide of judgments from the European institutions using other legal avenues to erode away these rights, and we should be gravely concerned."

He added: "As if this week's decision was not bad enough, we are also fighting increasing demands for the UK to pay benefits to those who have long since moved abroad, and who may never have made more than a token contribution to UK society."

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