Thursday 29 September 2016

Proposal to cut child benefit for parents whose kids live abroad

Sarah Collins in Brussels

Published 03/02/2016 | 02:30

European Council President Donald Tusk (left) listens to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the European Council in Brussels yesterday. Photo: Getty
European Council President Donald Tusk (left) listens to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the European Council in Brussels yesterday. Photo: Getty

Ireland may soon be entitled to cut child benefit for EU citizens whose children are living abroad.

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EU citizens working in Ireland are entitled to the same benefits as Irish citizens, even if their child lives in another EU country.

But under a plan published yesterday by European Council President Donald Tusk, the Government would have the option of linking child benefit to the cost of living in other EU countries.

Child benefit in Ireland is €140 a month per child but can be as little as €17 a month per child in Poland - though the new government has pledged to raise it this year.

Ireland is currently paying child benefit in respect of 8,100 non-resident children, bringing the monthly bill to around €1.1m.

The child benefit proposal is part of a wide-ranging "settlement" put forward by Mr Tusk to keep the UK in the EU.

Referendum

The settlement is still at a draft stage and has to be approved by all 28 EU countries at a summit of EU leaders later this month.

"To be, or not to be together, that is the question which must be answered not only by the British people in a referendum, but also by the other 27 members of the EU in the next two weeks," Mr Tusk said.

British prime minister David Cameron said yesterday that the proposals as they stand would allow him to campaign for the UK to stay in the EU in a referendum he has promised to hold before the end of 2017 - but which could take place as early as this summer.

Ireland "welcomes" the proposals, though a Government spokesperson described them as "complex and detailed" and said they would need to be "analysed carefully" before commenting further.

"It is very clearly in the interest of Ireland, the UK itself, and of the European Union that the UK decide to remain an active member of our Union: contributing to that outcome is the Government's overall objective in these negotiations," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Mr Tusk's settlement also proposes temporary restrictions on in-work benefits for EU citizens, which would apply if Britain - or any other country - feels its welfare system is under excessive pressure as a result of inward EU migration.

Other suggestions include a "red card" allowing national parliaments to club together to block unwanted EU legislation, a new "mechanism" to give non-eurozone countries a say in eurozone decisions that affect them, and a commitment to reduce EU regulation in key sectors.

They were made to address Mr Cameron's demands for safeguards on welfare, national sovereignty, eurozone decision-making and EU competitiveness, which he set out in a letter to EU governments last year.

Irish Independent

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