Act Now to Protect Children from Brexit

Published date: 
30 Jan 2017


Act Now to Protect Children from Brexit

The Children's Rights Alliance has reiterated its calls to Government to ensure children in Ireland are protected from the fallout of a hard Brexit. These calls are made in the context of an important gathering today (Monday, 30 January) of children and young people in Croke Park, Dublin. The event will be considering the impact of Brexit on young people to feed into an overall Government strategy.

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance: “Since 23 June last, Brexit has been a bad news story for children’s rights. Yet, the hard Brexit outlined last week by British Prime Minister, Theresa May,made the outlook even more grim. Our concerns for children relate to poverty, child protection loopholes, harsh border controls, the status of human rights in the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area.

The economic shock that will result from Brexit may cause poverty rates to sky-rocket on both sides of the border. Children in Ireland and in Northern Ireland already have among the highest rates of child poverty in the EU. We fear Brexit will plunge more families deeper into poverty.

EU laws provide ways to tackle cross-border child protection issues and crimes committed against children. We are talking about the most vulnerable children including those who have been abducted, trafficked or unaccompanied refugee children. An agreement, either between Britain and the EU, or at the very least between Ireland and Britain, is necessary to close all loopholes in our child protection systems.

The Good Friday Agreement recognises the right of people in Northern Ireland to hold Irish citizenship. A hard Brexit cannot rob them of this right. We want the EU and all parties to consider Northern Ireland as 'a special case'.

Both the EU and the Good Friday Agreement were established to promote peace and put the conflict into the annals of history. Peace and prosperity for all our people must always be the ultimate and common goal.

We welcome the event being held today by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr. Katherine Zappone TD, to consult with children and young people on the impact of Brexit. Unless both jurisdictions place what’s best for children at the heart of negotiations, they will suffer. There are solutions but we need to act on them.”

The Children’s Rights Alliance recommendations are as follows:

  • We should push for the UK to remain in international EU agreements and instruments that are fundamental for the protection of children and young people.

  • We should argue that Northern Ireland is ‘a special case’ deserving special consideration from the European Union, the Irish, British and other EU Member States. In this regard, all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement must remain intact. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) must not become a casualty of Brexit. Repeal of the ECHR and the Human Rights Act should in no way be tolerated.

  • Child poverty should be a key focus of negotiators and a focus of a future British/Irish Agreement. Both the Irish and UK Government should commit to reducing the numbers of children living in poverty in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with clear targets for monitoring this.

  • The rights of people in Northern Ireland to hold both Irish and British citizenship must be recognised and protected. 

  • The Common Travel Area should be maintained between Ireland and the UK. The rights of Irish children resident in the UK, and the rights of British children resident in Ireland should be specifically protected. As a general principle in the negotiations around Brexit, children of EU nationals living in the UK, and children of British nationals living throughout the EU should not be disenfranchised by Brexit. All children have the same rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They should not be discriminated against on the basis of their parentage. 

  • The Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Prof. Geoffrey Shannon should be formally asked to investigate the implications of Brexit on cross-border child protection issues, the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed against children and on custody, family law, divorce and international child abduction under Brussels II.