29 Mar 2017
Children’s Interests Must be at Heart of Brexit Negotiations
The Children’s Rights Alliance has once again warned of the risks posed to children in the wake of British Prime Minister Theresa May today triggering Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon to remove Great Britain from the European Union.
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance: “The outlook for children is not pretty – the UK exit poses a real threat to children and young people living in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland and throughout the rest of the European Union.
Our concerns for children are wide-ranging and relate to poverty, child protection loopholes, harsh border controls, the status of human rights in the Good Friday Agreement and the retention of the Common Travel Area. Decision-makers and negotiators must make sure that children’s interests and rights are put at the heart of negotiations – to avoid catastrophic risks to their lives and their futures.
In particular, we are concerned that child poverty rates will increase with an economic shock following the UK’s exit. 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.
The future is unclear for certain groups of vulnerable children including those who have been abducted or trafficked as well as unaccompanied refugee children. EU laws provide practical ways to tackle cross-border child protection, crimes committed against children and complex aspects of family law. Among our many questions is how will this law be enforced once the UK is out of the European Union? What legal loopholes will emerge?
But what about children with Irish nationality living in Britain and children with British nationality living in Ireland? More than 100,000 British citizens live in Ireland. There are more than 300,000 Irish citizens living in Britain. How will their children be affected by a hard Brexit? Is their ability to access services such as education and healthcare going to be at risk? What will happen to the children sent south to Ireland from the North for medical treatment?
The UK exit also poses particular issues for Ireland. The Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement recognises the right of people in the North to hold Irish citizenship and by extension EU citizenship. A hard Brexit cannot rob them of this right.
The Good Friday Agreement is our way of minimising the potential harm caused to children from Brexit. It requires the EU member states and the British and Irish Governments to treat the North as ‘a special case’. We have to take Brexit seriously. We have to consider the real threat to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. We cannot take our peace on the island of Ireland for granted.
The fate of millions of children is sealed unless immediate steps are taken now to protect them from a Brexit fallout.”
For further information, please contact:
Emma McKinley, Communications & Development Manager
01 662 9400 / 087 655 9067
Note for Editors
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive is available for interview.
The Children’s Rights Alliance position paper to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement can be found here. Our recommendations can be summarised 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.