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The EU Commission is the gift that keeps on giving

By Mark Wallace
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ThorIain Duncan Smith has received a special delivery: a big present, gift-wrapped in blue paper and yellow ribbon, sent direct from the EU Commission. 

The Eurocrats' latest wheeze is a legal case intended to strike down the restrictions used to prevent benefit tourists milking the British benefits system. Such a campaign is obviously outrageous - and deeply unpopular with taxpayers who are already concerned about some of their fellow Brits taking undue advantage of the welfare state.

IDS - and eurosceptics more generally - could not have asked for a more perfect goody.

He will "fight it all the way", apparently even to the point of appearing in court himself. He won't just thunder about this, expect him to have a full Thor outfit winging its way to his office on mail order. To slightly adjust the originally quote, the quiet man is smashing Brussels with a viking war hammer.

He will be right to do so, and it won't do him any harm with the electorate. In 2009, when I worked for the TaxPayers' Alliance, we commissioned some polling [PDF] to explore the British public's appetite for defying the EU. 72% of those polled supported the idea that Britain should ignore EU rules if it was in the national interest to do so. I very much doubt that number has fallen in the intervening 4 years.

In the grander scheme of things, it is issues like this on which the EU referendum should be fought. The EU isn't a dry issue of important but obscure constitutional concepts - it hits us in our pockets, it drives up our cost of living and it now seeks to encourage its residents to take even more advantage of the British taxpayer. 

When apologists for Brussels pop up to say "Europe doesn't even appear in the top ten issues concerning voters", they are deliberately ignoring the reality of our situation. The simple fact is that the EU's reach is now so great that many of those top ten issues are influenced in part or controlled in totality by Brussels.

This story is a perfect example: a court victory for the EU's mandarins would increase immigration, increase the cost of living by bumping up our tax bills and threaten the viability of the welfare state. If those aren't top ten issues, then I don't know what are.

With UKIP doing well in the polls and an In/Out referendum on the horizon, it's a politically stupid move on the part of the eurocrats, but it shouldn't surprise us. Given the EU's fundamentally anti-democratic nature, its institutions aren't set up or particularly minded to woo public opinion. With decades of simply handing down policy on their collective CV they have almost no skill or wit when it comes to communicating with the people. 

This new threat suggests they intend to carry on governing as normal, unaware of the impact on anti-Brussels feeling among an already heartily eurosceptic electorate. Eurosceptics should hope for more such presents in the next couple of years - the likelihood is that the EU will willingly deliver them.


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