The UK has said it wants an exemption from EU plans which would allow migrants from outside the EU to claim UK benefits.
The European Union hopes to grant migrants from Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein the same benefit rights as EU citizens.
Since May, unemployed EU nationals have been entitled to claim benefits in any member state. The new entitlements have meant all nationals and their families may claim disability and other benefits in the UK, whether they have worked or not.
Work and pensions minister Chris Grayling has expressed fears that the proposed extension of the entitlements to three non-EU countries will set a dangerous precedent. In an explanatory memorandum, Mr Grayling said accepting the changes might lead to the inclusion of much larger groups in the future, emphasising the UK’s present need for “stringent measures to control public expenditure”.
The EU argues that Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein are entitled to the same treatment as EU member states under terms of the 1994 European Economic Area Agreement, which granted the three nations participation in the EU’s single market.
The European Commission is reportedly in talks with Mr Grayling over his right to decide to “opt-in” to the new rules, which must be resolved by 10 December.