By Tim Montgomerie
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Just 48 hours before the Tories gather in Manchester for their annual conference the issue that has often caused the party most internal tensions is looming large again. Sometimes the issue of Europe is dismissed as an issue of secondary importance to voters but (1) yesterday's talk of a £40 billion Tobin tax on the City of London and (2) the overnight news about EU citizens being able to claim multiple benefits in Britain are not secondary issues.
The European Commission is insisting that EU citizens should have the right to come to Britain and enjoy access to a range of means-tested and residence-based benefits. If the European Court of Justice upholds the Commission's view economically inactive people from anywhere in the EU will be able to come and live in Britain and claim benefits that the Department for Work and Pensions estimates would cost British taxpayers £2 billion.
Writing in today's Telegraph (not yet online) Iain Duncan Smith sets out what's at stake:
"The UK has no problem playing its part in supporting the free movement of labour in the EU. However, what the EU is now trying to do is to get us to provide benefits for those who come to this country with no intention to work and no other means of supporting themselves, with the sole purpose of accessing a more generous benefit system."
All is far from lost, however. Welfare minister Chris Grayling has been working hard for the last eighteen months to build up an alliance of other nation states – particularly in northern Europe – who will oppose this latest stealthy attempt by the Commission to turn the EU into a single political and economic entity. Mr Grayling is hopeful of success and sees the Commission's approach to this issue as another sign that the central bureaucracy is out of touch with the politics of member states.
Victory cannot be assured, however, and this is another example of the EU's very intrusive role in British national life. Tomorrow the EU Temporary Agency Workers Directive comes into force and will load hundreds of millions in more costs on already struggling businesses…
So apart from the Eurozone economic firestorm, constant intrusive court judgments, inflated food prices, a net annual transfer of billions of pounds to the Brussels budget, benefit tourism, devastation of our fishing industry, a corrupt aid budget, expensive renewable energy policies, loss of control of immigration… can anyone give me a list of reasons for staying part of this European "Community"?