Hilary Term [2016] UKSC 1 On appeals from: [2012] EWCA Civ 1468 and 1952

JUDGMENT
Mirga (Appellant) v Secretary of State for Work
and Pensions (Respondent)
Samin (Appellant) v Westminster City Council
(Respondent)
before
Lord Neuberger, President
Lady Hale, Deputy President
Lord Kerr
Lord Clarke
Lord Reed
JUDGMENT GIVEN ON
27 January 2016
Heard on 9 and 10 March 2015
Appellant (Mirga) Respondent (SSWP)
Richard Drabble QC Jason Coppel QC
Zoe Leventhal Amy Rogers
(Instructed by Public Law
Project
)
(Instructed by The
Government Legal
Department
)
Appellant (Samin) Respondent (Westminster
CC)
Richard Drabble QC Ian Peacock
David Carter
David Cowan
(Instructed by Miles and
Partners LLP
)
(Instructed by Westminster
City Council Legal
Services
)
Intervener (Secretary of
State for Communities and
Local Government)
Jason Coppel QC
Amy Rogers
(Instructed by The
Government Legal
Department
)
Intervener (The AIRE
Centre)
Marie Demetriou QC
Charles Banner
Jennifer MacLeod
Matthew Moriarty
(Instructed by Ashurst
LLP)
Page 2
LORD NEUBERGER: (with whom Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke and
Lord Reed agree)
Introductory
1. These appeals are brought by a Polish national, Roksana Mirga, and an
Austrian national, Wadi Samin, against decisions of the Court of Appeal upholding
determinations that they were not entitled to certain benefits, namely income support
and housing assistance respectively, pursuant to the provisions of United Kingdom
domestic law. The arguments have changed somewhat over the course of the two
sets of proceedings, but the essential issue raised now is whether the provisions and
the current implementation of the domestic law in question infringe the rights of
residence in the UK of citizens of European Union member states.
2. Shortly before this judgment was to be delivered, counsel for the appellants
informed us of an Opinion which had been delivered by Advocate General Wathelet
in Jobcenter Berlin Neukölln v Alimanovic (Case C-67/14) [2016] 2 WLR 208,
which they contended assisted their arguments. We decided to await the judgment
of the Court of Justice in that case. Judgment was given on 15 September 2015, and
the parties have had the opportunity to make written submissions as to its effect on
these appeals.
3. It should perhaps be added that, after we received those further submissions,
the appellants’ counsel drew to our attention Advocate General Cruz Villalón’s
Opinion in European Commission v United Kingdom (Case C-308/14), and
suggested that we await the judgment of the Court of Justice in that case, or
alternatively that we refer these two cases to that court. In my opinion, following the
judgment in Alimanovic, any issue on which we have to rule in these appeals is acte
éclaré, and accordingly we should now determine these two appeals.
The factual background
The facts relating to Ms Mirga
4. Ms Mirga was born in 1988 in Poland. In 1998, she came to this country with
her parents and three siblings, but they returned to Poland in 2002 after being refused
asylum. Two years later, in June 2004, on Poland’s accession to the EU, the family
returned to the UK. Sadly, her mother died four months later, and her father, who
Page 3
had been working, gave up his job owing to depression a few months afterwards. He
received income support until late 2007, when it was decided that he should not have
been receiving it, on the ground that he did not have the right of residence in the
UK.
5. Meanwhile, Ms Mirga finished her education in April 2005 and embarked on
registered work within the meaning of the Accession (Immigration and Worker
Registration) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/1219) (“the A8 Regulations”). She
continued with that registered work until November 2005. In February 2006, she
became pregnant and started to do unregistered work, which she continued for two
months or so. In June 2006, she left home for rented accommodation, and did a
month’s further unregistered work around June 2006. In August 2006, she claimed
income support under the Income Support (General) Regulations 1987 (SI
1987/1967) (“the Income Support Regulations”) on the grounds of her pregnancy.
Her baby son was born in October 2006.
6. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions refused Ms Mirga’s application
for income support, and his decision was upheld by the First-tier Tribunal, whose
decision was affirmed, albeit for different reasons, by Judge Rowland in the Upper
Tribunal. The Upper Tribunal decided that the Secretary of State was entitled to
refuse Ms Mirga’s application because she did not have a right of residence in the
UK under the A8 Regulations and therefore was excluded from the ambit of income
support by virtue of the Income Support Regulations. The Upper Tribunal’s decision
was upheld by the Court of Appeal in a judgment given by Laws LJ, with which
Tomlinson LJ and Sir David Keene agreed – [2012] EWCA Civ 1952.
The facts relating to Mr Samin
7. Mr Samin was born in Iraq in 1960. After ten years military service, he
successfully sought asylum in Austria in 1992, together with his wife and children,
and he was accorded Austrian citizenship the following year. Sadly, he became
wholly estranged from his wife and children, and he came to the UK in December
2005, since when he has lived in this country on his own. During the ten months
following his entry into the UK, he had some paid employment on occasions, often
part-time, but he has not worked since some time in 2006, and has not been looking
for work since 2007.
8. Mr Samin is socially isolated and suffers from poor mental health, principally
from clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Having attempted to kill
himself in the past, he remains a moderately high risk of suicide in the medium term.
He also suffers from diabetes, hypertension and kidney stones, and he needs
physiotherapy.
Page 4
9. After occupying temporary accommodation, Mr Samin lived in a studio flat
in North London, which he had to vacate after four years in June 2010. He then
applied to Westminster City Council (“the Council”) for housing under the
homelessness provisions in Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 (“the Housing Act”).
After making inquiries, the Council decided that he was “a person from abroad who
is not eligible for housing assistance” within the meaning of section 185(1) of the
Housing Act, because he did not have the right of residence in the UK under the
Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1003) (“the
EEA Regulations”). That decision was affirmed in the Central London County Court
by His Honour Judge Mitchell, whose decision was in turn upheld by the Court of
Appeal for reasons given by Hughes LJ, with which Etherton and Tomlinson LJJ
agreed – [2012] EWCA Civ 1468; [2012] WLR(D) 336.
The legislative background
The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
10. Under article 18 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
(“TFEU”), “any discrimination on grounds of nationality” is “prohibited” in so far
as it is “[w]ithin the scope of application of the Treaties”. The importance of
avoiding discrimination is emphasised by article 19 of TFEU which states that the
Council “may take appropriate action to combat discrimination …”.
11. Article 20 of TFEU states in para 1 that every national of an EU member state
“shall be a citizen of the Union”, and, in para 2(a), that citizens of the Union should
have “the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the member states”,
albeit that that right is to be “exercised in accordance with the conditions and limits
defined by the Treaties and by the measures adopted thereunder”.
12. Article 21.1 of TFEU provides as follows:
“Every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move and
reside freely within the territory of the member states, subject
to the limitations and conditions laid down in the Treaties and
in the measures adopted to give them effect.”
13. Article 45 of TFEU, which is also concerned with freedom of movement for
workers, requires “the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between
workers of the member states as regards employment, remuneration and other
conditions of work and employment”.
Page 5
The 2003 Accession Treaty
14. In 2004, ten countries, including Poland, acceded to the EU pursuant to the
Treaty on Accession 2003 (“the 2003 Accession Treaty”). By virtue of articles 10
and 24 of the Act of Accession forming the second part of the Treaty, existing
member states, including the UK, were accorded, by way of derogation, certain
transitional powers. Those powers included a right to derogate in relation to the free
movement of workers within the EU, which was then governed by Regulation (EEC)
No 1612/68 (“the 1968 Regulation”), in relation to nationals (known as “A8
nationals”) of eight of the ten new member states. Those powers of derogation in
relation to Polish nationals were contained in paragraphs 1-14 of Part 2 of Annex 12
to the 2003 Accession Treaty. So long as these provisions were in force, they
enabled a host member state to exclude Polish nationals from freedom of movement
rights unless they had been working in that state for “an uninterrupted period of 12
months” following accession.
The 2004 Directive
15. The right of EU nationals to reside in all member states of the EU has been
qualified and regulated by EU Instruments, most notably by the 1968 Regulation
and by Directive 2004/38/EC of 30 April 2004 (“the 2004 Directive”), which made
substantial amendments to the 1968 Regulation. The 2004 Directive is concerned
with “the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside
freely within the territory of the member states”.
16. The preamble to the 2004 Directive includes the following:
“(10) Persons exercising their right of residence should not …
become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system
of the host member state during an initial period of residence.
Therefore, the right of residence for Union citizens and their
family members for periods in excess of three months should
be subject to conditions.

(16) As long as the beneficiaries of the right of residence do
not become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance
system of the host member state they should not be expelled.
Therefore, an expulsion measure should not be the automatic
consequence of recourse to the social assistance system. The
Page 6
host member state should examine whether it is a case of
temporary difficulties and take into account the duration of
residence, the personal circumstances and the amount of aid
granted in order to consider whether the beneficiary has
become an unreasonable burden on its social assistance system
and to proceed to his expulsion. In no case should an expulsion
measure be adopted against workers, self-employed persons or
job-seekers as defined by the Court of Justice save on grounds
of public policy or public security.”
Recital (31) emphasises that the 2004 Directive should be implemented in a nondiscriminatory way.
17. Article 6 states that “Union citizens shall have the right of residence on the
territory of another member state for a period of up to three months without any
conditions or any formalities”, and that the right extends to family members.
18. Article 7 is concerned with the “Right of Residence for more than three
months”, and it starts as follows:
“1. All Union citizens shall have the right of residence on the
territory of another member state for a period of longer than
three months if they:
(a) are workers or self-employed persons in the host
member state; or
(b) have sufficient resources for themselves and their
family members not to become a burden on the social
assistance system of the host member state during their
period of residence and have comprehensive sickness
insurance cover in the host member state.”
Para 1(c) of article 7 deals with students, and para 1(d) and para 2 deal with family
members.
19. Article 7.3 provides that a person does not lose the status of a worker or selfemployed person on ceasing to work in certain circumstances. Those circumstances
include (a) if he or she is “temporarily unable to work as the result of an illness or
Page 7
accident”, and (b) if he or she has been employed for more than a year, is
involuntarily unemployed and has registered as a job-seeker.
20. Article 8 is concerned with “Administrative formalities for Union citizens”,
and articles 8.1 and 8.2 deal with the right of member states to require Union citizens
residing for more than three months “to register with the relevant authorities”.
Articles 8.3 and 8.4 include the following:
“3. For the registration certificate to be issued, member
states may only require that: …
… Union citizens to whom point (b) of article 7(1)
applies present a valid identity card or passport and
provide proof that they satisfy the conditions laid down
therein; …
4. Member states may not lay down a fixed amount which
they regard as ‘sufficient resources’ but they must take into
account the personal situation of the person concerned. In all
cases this amount shall not be higher than the threshold below
which nationals of the host member state become eligible for
social assistance, or, where this criterion is not applicable,
higher than the minimum social security pension paid by the
host member state.”
21. Article 14.1 states that the three months’ right of residence under article 6
applies “as long as [the citizen and his or her family] do not become an unreasonable
burden on the social assistance system of the host member state”. Article 14.2
provides that “Union citizens and their family members have the right of residence
provided for in [article 7] as long as they meet the conditions set out therein”. But
article 14.3 states that an “expulsion measure” should not be “the automatic
consequence” of “recourse to the social assistance system”. Article 14.4 provides
that an expulsion measure shall not be adopted against Union citizens who (a) “are
workers or self-employed persons”, or (b) entered the host state to seek employment
and “can provide evidence that they are continuing to seek employment and that
they have a genuine chance of being engaged”.
22. Article 24.1 states that “all Union citizens residing on the basis of this
Directive in the territory of the host member state shall enjoy equal treatment with
the nationals of that member state”, albeit “subject to such specific provisions as are
expressly provided for in the Treaty and secondary law”. Article 24.2 specifically
Page 8
entitles a member state to refuse social assistance “during the first three months of
residence, or, where appropriate, the longer period provided for in article 14(4)(b)”.
23. Article 28 is concerned with “Protection against expulsion”, and para 1
provides that:
“Before taking an expulsion decision on grounds of public
policy or public security, the host member state shall take
account of considerations such as how long the individual
concerned has resided on its territory, his/her age, state of
health, family and economic situation, social and cultural
integration into the host member state and the extent of his/her
links with the country of origin.”
24. Articles 30 and 31 are concerned with protecting the rights that are the subject
of the Directive (and the width of their ambit is emphasised by article 15.1). Article
30 deals with notification, and article 31 deals with “Procedural safeguards”,
including access to judicial “redress procedures”.
Domestic legislation: the EEA Regulations
25. On 30 April 2006, the EEA Regulations came into force in the United
Kingdom. They were, as the Explanatory Note explains, intended to “implement”
the 2004 Directive.
26. Regulation 13 of the EEA Regulations provides that all EEA nationals have
the right to reside in the UK for three months. Regulation 14 provides that a
“qualified person” is entitled to remain in the UK so long as he is so qualified.
Regulation 6 of the EEA Regulations defines what is meant by “qualified person”.
It includes a “jobseeker”, a “worker”, a “self-employed person”, a “self-sufficient
person”, and a “student”. Regulation 4, which has been amended on various
occasions, is concerned with definitions of most of those expressions, including
“worker” and “self-sufficient person”.
27. Regulation 4(1)(a) defines “worker” by reference to the TFEU. Regulations
5 and 15 certain workers “who [have] ceased activity” have a permanent right of
residence, and they include (2) those who have retired having worked in the UK for
at least 12 months and resided there for at least three years, and (3) those who have
stopped working “as a result of permanent incapacity”, having resided in the UK for
at least two years. Regulation 6 extends qualified person status to people who are
temporarily no longer working owing to “illness or accident”, or who worked but
Page 9
are now involuntarily unemployed and registered as jobseekers (but only for six
months if they were employed for less than a year), or who have lost their jobs and
are in vocational training.
28. Regulation 4(1)(c) of the EEA Regulations provides that:
“‘self-sufficient person’ means a person who has –
i) sufficient resources not to become a burden on
the social assistance system of the United Kingdom
during his period of residence; and
ii) comprehensive sickness insurance cover in the
United Kingdom.”
29. Regulation 4(2), (3) and (4) contain further provisions dealing with what
constitutes “sufficient resources”, but only para (4) is of any relevance in these
proceedings. It has been amended at least twice. Ignoring references to family
members which are irrelevant in these two cases, regulation 4(4) now provides that
resources “are to be regarded as sufficient” if “(a) they exceed the maximum level
… which a British citizen … may possess if he is to become eligible for social
assistance” in the UK, or “(b) … taking into account the personal situation of the
person concerned … it appears … that [his] resources … should be regarded as
sufficient”. The paragraph originally only included what is now sub-para (a), and
sub-para (b) was added in 2011.
30. Regulation 19 of the EEA Regulations is concerned with refusal of admission
and removal, and para 3 provides that a person who has been admitted into, or
acquired a right to reside in, the UK may be removed if he does not have or ceases
to have a right to reside. However regulation 19(4) states that a person cannot be
removed “as an automatic consequence of having recourse to the social assistance
system of the [UK]”.
Domestic legislation: the A8 Regulations
31. Pursuant to the terms of the 2003 Accession Treaty, the European Union
(Accessions) Act 2003 was enacted, which, under section 2, permitted the Secretary
of State to make the A8 Regulations (which were revoked in May 2011).
Regulations 2 and 5 of the A8 Regulations provided that A8 nationals would only
have full access to the UK labour market if they had been in registered employment
Page 10
under the Worker Registration Scheme for a continuous period of 12 months. The
consequence was that, so long as the A8 Regulations were in force, A8 nationals
could not become “qualifying persons” under the EEA Regulations unless and until
they had performed registered employment for a continuous period of at least 12
months.
Domestic legislation: income support
32. Entitlement to income support arises under section 124 of the Social Security
Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 and the Income Support Regulations. In very
summary terms, income support is available for certain people provided that they
are not engaged in relevant work or receiving relevant education, and their income
is below the “applicable amount”. The effect of regulation 21 of the Income Support
Regulations, however, is that a “person from abroad” is to be treated as having an
“applicable amount” of nil, and is therefore not eligible for income support.
33. Regulation 21AA(1)-(3) of the Income Support Regulations states that
certain people will be treated as “persons from abroad” unless they are “habitually
resident” in the UK (and certain other places, including Ireland), and have the right
to be so under certain statutory provisions not germane to the present appeals.
Regulation 21AA(4) provides, however, that a person is not a “person from abroad”
if he is, inter alia, a “worker” (or “self-employed person”, or is to be treated as a
“worker” or “self-employed person”) within the meaning of the 2004 Directive.
Domestic legislation: housing assistance
34. Part VII of the Housing Act imposes duties on local housing authorities in
relation to homeless people. The duty extends, under section 193, to providing them
with accommodation where they are involuntarily homeless and in priority need –
unless they are not “eligible for assistance”. Eligibility for assistance is dealt with in
section 185 of the Housing Act, which provides, inter alia, that “a person who is
subject to immigration control” is ineligible for housing assistance unless of a class
prescribed by regulations, along with any other person from abroad treated as
ineligible by virtue of regulations.
35. The Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England)
Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1294) (“the Eligibility Regulations”) define the classes
of persons subject to immigration control who are eligible for housing assistance
and the classes of other persons from abroad who are ineligible, and the effect of
regulations 2(2) and 6(2) is that a person from abroad is eligible if he is a worker for
Page 11
the purposes of the definition of a “qualified person” in regulation 6(1) of the EEA
Regulations.
The issues raised on these appeals
36. Mr Coppel QC and Ms Rogers, on behalf of the Secretary of State, contend
that, at the time that Ms Mirga applied for income support, she was ineligible for
income support under the Income Support Regulations, because she was a “person
from abroad”. This was on the basis that she could not claim to be a “worker” as she
was an A8 national who had not done 12 months’ registered employment (under the
A8 Regulations), and thus could not be a “qualifying person” for the purpose of the
EEA Regulations. Even if the A8 Regulations did not apply, Mr Coppel argues that
Ms Mirga would still not have been a “worker”, as the EEA Regulations would have
required her to have worked for at least 12 months before she claimed income
support. There is no question of Ms Mirga having been a “jobseeker”, a “selfemployed person”, or a “student” under the EEA Regulations. Further, it seems clear
that Ms Mirga could not claim to be a “self-sufficient person” under the EEA
Regulations, as she had no significant means of support and no health insurance (but
if she had had been a “self-sufficient person” she would presumably not have needed
income support anyway).
37. With the support of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local
Government, Mr Peacock contends for the Council that Mr Samin is not a “worker”
within the EEA Regulations because he is now permanently incapable of work, and
in any event he cannot claim to be a “worker” because he has not worked for 12
months in the UK. Accordingly, argues Mr Peacock, Mr Samin is not a “qualified
person” under the EEA Regulations, from which it follows that he is “ineligible” for
the purposes of the Housing Act. It is also said that Mr Samin cannot claim to be “a
self-sufficient person” within the EEA Regulations because he has no assets and no
health insurance.
38. The first argument raised by Mr Drabble QC, who appears with Ms Leventhal
on behalf of Ms Mirga, is that, in the light of her right to respect for her private and
family life, under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, she cannot
be removed from the UK, and therefore her right of residence in the UK, as accorded
by article 21.1 of TFEU, cannot be limited or cut back in the way that the Income
Support Regulations seek to do, namely by restricting her rights to income support
because she has not achieved a continuous 12 month period in registered
employment. His alternative argument is that, even if it would be permissible to
refuse Ms Mirga income support on that ground, it is only possible in practice if it
would be proportionate to do so, and in particular if the grant of income support to
her would place an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the UK,
and there has been no inquiry into that question.
Page 12
39. The first argument raised on behalf of Mr Samin by Mr Drabble, appearing
with Mr Carter and Mr Cowan, is that the refusal of housing assistance to Mr Samin
constituted unlawful discrimination in breach of article 18 of the TFEU, even though
he may not have had a right of residence in the UK. The alternative argument raised
on behalf of Mr Samin reflects the alternative argument in Ms Mirga’s case, namely
that there should have been an investigation as to whether it was proportionate to
refuse Mr Samin housing assistance, in particular on the ground that it represented
an unreasonable burden of the UK social assistance system.
40. Mr Drabble’s arguments were supported by Ms Demetriou QC, assisted by
Mr Banner and Ms MacLeod, on behalf of The AIRE Centre, and it is right to record
the court’s appreciation of their pro bono work in this case, and their assistance to
the court.
Discussion
Issue one: do the domestic Regulations infringe the appellants’ TFEU rights?
41. Mr Drabble’s first contention on behalf of Ms Mirga is that, as she is a
“worker” (albeit one whose work was temporarily interrupted owing to her
pregnancy), article 21.1 of TFEU accords her the right to “reside freely” within the
EU, and therefore within the UK, and that the denial of income support to her, at a
time when she needed it in order to be able to live in the UK, was an impermissible
interference with that right, as she would, in practice, be forced to return to Poland.
That argument can be said to reflect the fundamental importance of freedom of
movement and freedom of establishment to the single market concept, as well as the
significance attached in articles 18 and 19 of TFEU to the avoidance of
discrimination between citizens of a member state and other EU nationals.
42. A similar argument cannot be run in relation to Mr Samin, because it is now
accepted that owing to his inability to work he cannot claim to be a “worker”, even
in the light of the extended definition in article 7.3 of the 2004 Directive and
regulation 6 of the EEA Regulations. Accordingly, Mr Drabble’s first line of
argument on behalf of Mr Samin is that the Council’s refusal to provide Mr Samin
with housing assistance under Part VII of the Housing Act constituted
“discrimination on grounds of nationality” prohibited by article 18 of TFEU,
because such assistance would have been accorded to a citizen of the UK, or a
qualifying worker from another member state, who was otherwise in the same
position as Mr Samin.
Page 13
43. It seems to me that these arguments face real difficulties. The right accorded
by article 21.1 of TFEU, which is relied on by Ms Mirga, although fundamental and
broad, is qualified by the words “subject to the limitations and conditions laid down
in the Treaties and in the measures adopted to give them effect”. In the present case,
the “measures” include the 2004 Directive, and presumably include the 2003
Accession Treaty, which was adopted under article 49 of the Treaty on European
Union.
44. It appears clear from the terms of paragraph 10 of the preamble that it was a
significant aim of the 2004 Directive that EU nationals from one member state
should not be able to exercise their rights of residence in another member state so as
to become “an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system”. It also seems
clear that any right of residence after three months can be “subject to conditions”.
This is reflected in the terms of article 7.1, in that it limits the right of residence after
three months to those who are workers, self-employed, students, or with sufficient
resources and health insurance “not to become a burden on the social assistance
system of the host member state”. Indeed, it is worth noting that article 14.1 even
limits the right of residence in the first three months. It further appears clear from
article 24, that EU nationals’ right of equal treatment in host member states is
“subject to … secondary law”, and in particular that they can be refused social
assistance “where appropriate”.
45. Accordingly, when one turns to the 2003 Accession Treaty and the 2004
Directive, I consider that, because Ms Mirga has not done 12 months’ work in this
country, she cannot claim to be a “worker”, and, because she is not a “jobseeker”,
“self-employed”, a “student”, or “self-sufficient”, it would seem to follow that she
can be validly denied a right of residence in the UK, and therefore can be excluded
from social assistance. In those circumstances, it must follow that article 21.1 TFEU
cannot assist her.
46. The fact that Ms Mirga may have to cease living in the UK to seek assistance
in Poland does not appear to me to assist her argument. Although the refusal of social
assistance may cause her to leave the UK, there would be no question of her being
expelled from this country. I find it hard to read the 2004 Directive as treating refusal
of social assistance as constituting a species of constructive expulsion even if it
results in the person concerned leaving the host member state. As I see it, the
Directive distinguishes between the right of residence and the act of expulsion.
However, quite apart from this, the Directive makes it clear that the right of
residence is not to be invoked simply to enable a national of one member state to
obtain social assistance in another member state. On the contrary: the right of
residence is not intended to be available too easily to those who need social
assistance from the host member state.
Page 14
47. Mr Samin’s first argument appears to me to face similar difficulties. The
article 18 right which he relies on does not constitute a broad or general right not to
be discriminated against. First, its ambit is limited to “the scope of the Treaties”,
which means that it only comes into play where there is discrimination in connection
with a right in the TFEU or another EU Treaty. Secondly, the article 18 right is
“without prejudice to any special provisions contained [in the Treaties]”. That brings
one back to the argument raised on behalf of Ms Mirga.
48. Contrary to the appellants’ argument, I do not consider that the decision of
the Third Chamber in Pensionsversicherungsanstalt v Brey (Case C-140/12) [2014]
1 WLR 1080 provides the appellants with much assistance. However, it is
unnecessary to consider that possibility, because it seems to me clear that the first
point raised by each appellant must be rejected as acte éclaré following the recent
Grand Chamber judgments in Dano and another v Jobcenter Leipzig (Case C333/13) [2015] 1 WLR 2519 (which was published after the Court of Appeal decided
these cases) and in Alimanovic (Case C-67/14) EU:C:2015:597, which, as
mentioned above, was published some time after the hearing of these appeals. It is
appropriate to set out in summary terms the effect of those three decisions, not least
because they have relevance to the second issue raised on behalf of each appellant,
as well as the first.
49. In Brey, the applicant was a German national residing in Austria, who
received a German pension and care allowance insufficient for his needs, and who
was refused a compensatory supplement from the Austrian government, because he
did not meet the necessary national residency requirements, which excluded those
who did not have sufficient resources not to be a burden on the Austrian social
security system. Shortly after that refusal, the Austrian government issued the
applicant with an EEA citizen registration certificate. The question referred to the
Court of Justice by the Austrian Oberster Gerichtshof was “whether article 7(1)(b)
of Directive 2004/38 should be interpreted as meaning that, for the purposes of that
provision, the concept of ‘social assistance’ covers a benefit such as the
compensatory supplement” (para 26). The Chamber ruled, at para 80, that the 2004
Directive precluded national legislation which
“automatically – whatever the circumstances – bars the grant of
a benefit, such as the compensatory supplement … to a national
of another member state who is not economically active, on the
grounds that, despite having been issued with a certificate of
residence, he does not meet the necessary requirements for
obtaining the legal right to reside … since obtaining that right
of residence is conditional on that national having sufficient
resources not to apply for the benefit.”
Page 15
50. In Dano, the applicant and her son were Romanian nationals living in
Germany (where the son had been born), and she had been issued with an unlimited
residence certificate. The applicant neither had worked nor was looking for work,
and she and her son were refused maintenance payments. The Sozialgericht Leipzig
referred a number of questions to the Court of Justice, and the Grand Chamber
concluded that article 24 of the 2004 Directive and article 4 of Regulation 883/2004
(which concerns “the coordination of social security systems”, and includes a similar
anti-discrimination provision to the 2004 Directive):
“must be interpreted as not precluding legislation of a member
state under which nationals of other member states are
excluded from entitlement to certain ‘special non-contributory
cash benefits’ within the meaning of article 70(2) of Regulation
883/2004, although those benefits are granted to nationals of
the host member state who are in the same situation, in so far
as those nationals of other member states do not have a right of
residence under Directive 2004/38 in the host member state.”
(para 84)
51. In Alimanovic, Mrs Alimanovic and her three children were Swedish
nationals who had gone to Germany and had been issued with a certificate of right
to permanent residence. She and her children were refused subsistence and social
allowances, and when they challenged this, the Bundessozialgericht referred three
questions to the Court of Justice. The Grand Chamber ruled, at para 63, that article
24 of the 2004 Directive:
“must be interpreted as not precluding legislation of a member
state under which nationals of other member states who are in
a situation such as that referred to in article 14(4)(b) of that
Directive are excluded from entitlement to certain ‘special noncontributory cash benefits’ within the meaning of article 70(2)
of Regulation No 883/2004, which also constitute ‘social
assistance’ within the meaning of article 24(2) of Directive
2004/38, although those benefits are granted to nationals of the
member state concerned who are in the same situation.”
52. In para 60 of Dano, the Grand Chamber said that the right granted by article
18 of TFEU was subject to the restrictions I have mentioned in paras 43 and 44
above, and the court referred in support to the decision in Brey, and in particular
paras 46ff. In para 46 of Brey, the Chamber had referred to “the right of nationals of
one member state to reside in the territory of another members state without being
… employed or self-employed” as being “not unconditional”. It is also worth noting
that the Grand Chamber also referred to article 20 of TFEU and article 24 of the
Page 16
2004 Directive in terms which made it clear that the rights they grant should, in the
instant context, be treated similarly to the rights granted by article 18.
53. In para 61 of Dano, the Grand Chamber described the right under article 18
of the TFEU as having been “given more specific expression in article 24 of [the
2004 Directive]”. In para 63, citing Brey, para 61, the court pointed out that if
someone has recourse to “assistance schemes established by the public authorities”,
he may “during his period of residence, become a burden on the public finances of
the host member state which could have consequences for the overall level of
assistance which may be granted by that state”. In para 69, it was made clear that “a
Union citizen can claim equal treatment with nationals of the host member state only
if his residence in the territory of the host member state complies with the conditions
of [the 2004 Directive]”. In para 73, the court summarised the effect of article 7(1)
of the 2004 Directive, and said in the following paragraph that, if “persons who do
not have a right of residence under [the 2004 Directive] may claim entitlement to
social benefits under the same conditions as those applicable to nationals [that]
would run counter to an objective of the Directive”. In para 76, the purpose of article
7(1)(b) of the 2004 Directive was described as being “to prevent economically
inactive Union citizens from using the host members state’s welfare system to fund
their means of subsistence”. Finally, in para 80 the Grand Chamber said that a
person’s “financial situation … should be examined specifically … in order to
determine whether he meets the condition of having sufficient resources to qualify
… under article 7.1(b)”.
54. As already mentioned, the authority of the decision in Dano has been
reinforced by the decision in Alimanovic, where, in paras 44 and 50 respectively, the
Grand Chamber specifically referred to what was said in paras 63 and 69 of the
judgment in Dano with approval. More broadly, as explained more fully below, the
Grand Chamber in Alimanovic confirmed that a Union citizen can claim equal
treatment with nationals of a country, at least in relation to social assistance, only if
he or she can satisfy the conditions for lawful residence in that country. Thus, it was
confirmed that article 24.2 of the 2004 Directive was, in effect, a valid exception to
the principle of non-discrimination.
55. Dano and Alimanovic clearly demonstrate that the jurisprudence of the Grand
Chamber of the Court of Justice is inconsistent with Mr Drabble’s first argument on
behalf of Ms Mirga and Mr Samin, at least in so far as his argument is focussed on
the 2004 Directive. It is fair to say that those cases were not concerned with the 2003
Accession Treaty. However, the House of Lords concluded in Zalewska v
Department for Social Development [2008] 1 WLR 2602 that the A8 Regulations,
which reflect the provisions of the 2003 Accession Treaty, were consistent with EU
law, and nothing I have heard or read in connection with this appeal casts doubt on
that conclusion. In particular, it appears to be consistent with the reasoning in Brey,
Dano and Alimanovic.
Page 17
56. The only possible remaining issue in relation to this first set of arguments
could be whether (i) in the case of Ms Mirga, the provisions of the Income Support
Regulations, when read together with the A8 Regulations and the EEA Regulations,
and (ii) in the case of Mr Samin, the provisions of the Eligibility Regulations, when
read together with the EEA Regulations, complied with the requirements of the 2003
Accession Treaty and the 2004 Directive. As I understood his contentions, Mr
Drabble did not suggest any discrepancy in the domestic regulations –
unsurprisingly, as they were clearly intended to implement the EU instruments.
57. Accordingly, in my judgment, following the clear guidance from the Grand
Chamber in Dano and Alimanovic, the first arguments raised on behalf of Ms Mirga
and Mr Samin cannot be maintained. That leaves their alternative arguments raised
in the two appeals, based on proportionality.
Issue two: the appellants’ argument based on lack of proportionality
58. Mr Drabble’s second argument in both appeals is that the determination of
the authorities and the courts and tribunals below in the case of both Ms Mirga and
Mr Samin was flawed because no consideration was given to the proportionality of
refusing each of them social assistance bearing in mind all the circumstances of their
respective cases, and in particular that the authority or tribunal concerned failed to
address the burden it would place on the system if they were to be accorded the
social assistance which they sought. In that connection, Mr Drabble relied on the
Court of Justice’s decisions in St Prix v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
(Case C-507/12) [2014] PTSR 1448, Baumbast v Secretary of State for the Home
Department (Case C-413/99) [2003] ICR 1347 and Brey.
59. St Prix was concerned with the question whether a person ceased
automatically to be a “worker” for the purpose of the 2004 Directive, and therefore
the EEA Regulations, if she temporarily ceased work owing to the fact that she was
pregnant. It provides no assistance to the appellants’ arguments as advanced by Mr
Drabble, except to emphasise the purposive approach to be adopted to the
interpretation of the 2004 Directive.
60. The effect of the decision of Baumbast is that the fact that an applicant may
fall short of the strict requirements of having “self-sufficiency” status under what
are now the 2004 Directive and the EEA Regulations cannot always justify the host
member state automatically rejecting his or her right to reside on the ground that the
requirements for that status are not wholly complied with. In Baumbast the court
was concerned, inter alia, with the issue whether an applicant could exercise the
right to reside in the UK in circumstances where he was resting his case on the
ground that he was a “self-sufficient person”. It is clear from paras 88 and 89 of the
Page 18
judgment that the applicant had sufficient resources to be self-sufficient in practice,
and that he had medical insurance. His only possible problem was that the insurance
may have fallen short of being “comprehensive” in one respect, namely that it was
not clear whether it covered “emergency treatment”. The court held that, on the
assumption that the insurance fell short in this connection, it would nonetheless be
disproportionate to deprive the applicant of his right to reside.
61. In para 92, the court pointed out that there were strong factors in the
applicant’s favour, namely that he had sufficient resources, that he had worked and
resided in the UK for “several years”, that his family had also resided in the UK for
several years, that he and his family had never received any social assistance, and
that he and his family had comprehensive medical insurance in Germany. In those
circumstances, the court said in para 93 that it would be “a disproportionate
interference with the exercise” of the applicant’s right of residence conferred by
what is now article 21.1 of TFEU to refuse to let him stay in the UK because of a
small shortfall in the comprehensiveness of his medical insurance.
62. I do not consider that the appellants derive any assistance from Baumbast.
Mr Baumbast’s case was predicated on the fact that he did not need any assistance
from the state. Even if the decision is relied on by analogy, it is of no help to the
appellants. The thrust of the court’s reasoning in that case was that, where an
applicant’s failure to meet the requirements of being “a self-sufficient person” was
very slight, his links with the host member state were particularly strong, and his
claim was particularly meritorious, it would be disproportionate to reject his claim
to enjoy the right of residence in that host state. Even though the applicant had a
very strong case in the sense that he fell short of the self-sufficiency requirements
in one very small respect, the court decided that he could rely on disproportionality
only after considering the position in some detail.
63. Mr Drabble’s argument appears to derive greater assistance from some of the
reasoning of the Third Chamber in Brey, where the Third Chamber held that the
complementary supplement was “social assistance” within the meaning of the 2004
Directive and also that it was open to member states to provide such assistance to
“economically inactive citizens of other member states in any circumstances”.
Crucially, argues Mr Drabble, the Austrian government’s refusal of the
complementary supplement to the applicant was held to be unlawful.
64. The central reasoning of the Third Chamber in Brey for present purposes is
in paras 75-78. In para 75, having considered a number of points, the court
concluded that “the mere fact that a national of a member state receives social
assistance is not sufficient to show that he constitutes an unreasonable burden on the
social assistance system of the host member state”. In the following paragraph, the
court stated that the fact that a non-national has applied for the benefit in issue in
Page 19
that case was “not sufficient to preclude [him] from receiving it, regardless of the
duration of residence, the amount of the benefit, and the period for which it is
available”.
65. In para 77, the court made the point that domestic legislation, such as the
Austrian law in that case, could not provide that a national of another member state,
who was not a worker, self-employed or a student, should be automatically barred
from receiving a social benefit. In the next paragraph, the court stated that “the
competent authorities” should be able “when examining the application of a Union
citizen who is not economically active and is in Mr Brey’s position” to “take into
account” certain factors. They included “the amount and regularity of [the
applicant’s] income”, the fact that he had received a certificate of residence, the
period for which he would receive the benefit, and “the extent of the burden [it]
would place” on the social security system (which as Advocate General Wathelet
said in Dano at paras 111-112 of his Opinion, must be a collective assessment, which
was confirmed by the Grand Chamber in para 62 of Alimanovic). These factors were,
the court said in para 78 of the judgment in Brey, for the domestic court to assess.
66. Brey was an unusual case, because the applicant had been issued with a
certificate of residence by the Austrian government, a factor which appears to have
played a significant part in the court’s thinking, as it was recited in the re-formulated
question (in para 32) and it is referred to expressly and impliedly in the crucial para
78 of the judgment, and indeed in the final ruling of the Third Chamber (see para 49
above). However, it is not necessary to address that point further, as it appears to me
that the reasoning in Brey cannot assist the appellants on the instant appeals, in the
light of the subsequent reasoning of the Grand Chamber in the subsequent decisions
in Dano and Alimanovic.
67. The observations of the Grand Chamber in Dano discussed in para 53 above
are in point. In Alimanovic, para 59, the Grand Chamber specifically mentioned that
the court in Brey had stated that “a member state [was required] to take account of
the individual situation of the person concerned before it … finds that the residence
of that person is placing an unreasonable burden on its social assistance system”.
However, the Grand Chamber went on to say that “no such individual assessment is
necessary in circumstances such as those in issue in this case”. In para 60, the Grand
Chamber explained that:
“Directive 2004/38, establishing a gradual system as regards
the retention of the status of ‘worker’ which seeks to safeguard
the right of residence and access to social assistance, itself takes
into consideration various factors characterising the individual
situation of each applicant for social assistance and, in
Page 20
particular, the duration of the exercise of any economic
activity.”
The court then went on to explain that article 7 of the 2004 Directive, when read
with other provisions, “guarantees a significant level of legal certainty and
transparency in the context of the award of social assistance by way of basic
provision, while complying with the principle of proportionality”. (In this
connection, the Grand Chamber took a different view from that taken by Advocate
General Wathelet in paras 105-111 of his Opinion, upon which Mr Drabble had
understandably relied.)
68. In my view, this makes good sense: it seems unrealistic to require “an
individual examination of each particular case”. I note that this was a proposition
which the Second Chamber rejected, albeit in a somewhat different (and probably
less striking) context, on the ground that “the management of the regime concerned
must remain technically and economically viable” – see Dansk Jurist-og
Økonomforbund v Indenrigs-og Sundshedsministeriet (Case C-546/11) [2014] ICR
1, para 70, which was cited with approval in the present context by Advocate
General Wahl in Dano at para 132 of his Opinion.
69. Where a national of another member state is not a worker, self-employed or
a student, and has no, or very limited, means of support and no medical insurance
(as is sadly the position of Ms Mirga and Mr Samin), it would severely undermine
the whole thrust and purpose of the 2004 Directive if proportionality could be
invoked to entitle that person to have the right of residence and social assistance in
another member state, save perhaps in extreme circumstances. It would also place a
substantial burden on a host member state if it had to carry out a proportionality
exercise in every case where the right of residence (or indeed the right against
discrimination) was invoked.
70. Even if there is a category of exceptional cases where proportionality could
come into play, I do not consider that either Ms Mirga or Mr Samin could possibly
satisfy it. They were in a wholly different position from Mr Baumbast: he was not
seeking social assistance, he fell short of the self-sufficiency criteria to a very small
extent indeed, and he had worked in this country for many years. By contrast Ms
Mirga and Mr Samin were seeking social assistance, neither of them had any
significant means of support or any medical insurance, and neither had worked for
sustained periods in this country. The whole point of their appeals was to enable
them to receive social assistance, and at least the main point of the self-sufficiency
test is to assist applicants who would be very unlikely to need social assistance.
Page 21
71. Whatever sympathy one may naturally feel for Ms Mirga and Mr Samin, their
respective applications for income support and housing assistance represent
precisely what was said by the Grand Chamber in Dano, para 75 (supported by its
later reasoning in Alimanovic) to be the aim of the 2004 Directive to stop, namely
“economically inactive Union citizens using the host member state’s welfare system
to fund their means of subsistence”.
Conclusion
72. I would dismiss both these appeals.