Children Must Not be a Casualty in Brexit Talks

Published date: 
12 Jan 2017
Children Must Not be a Casualty in Brexit Talks
Tanya Ward and Saoirse Brady of the Children’s Rights Alliance are today (12 January) presenting to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. This Committee, which includes both members from Leinster House and MPs from Northern Ireland, is considering the implications of Brexit for the Good Friday Agreement. 
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive said today that:  “Brexit poses a significant threat to children on this island, North and South. Likely implications include an increase to child poverty rates and the potential exploitation of loopholes in child protection systems.
Children in Ireland and in Northern Ireland already have among the highest rates of child poverty in the EU. The economic shock to the common market that may arise from a hard Brexit will almost certainly plunge children further into poverty unless both jurisdictions place tackling child poverty at the heart of negotiations.
EU laws provide ways to tackle cross-border child protection issues and crimes committed against children. If the UK is unable to stay in a common child protection system, a British-Irish Agreement must close all loopholes.
We are calling on the EU and all parties to consider Northern Ireland as 'a special case'. 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.
Let’s never forget that both EU and the Good Friday Agreement were established to promote peace and put the conflict into the annals of history. We must do all in our power to ensure that peace and prosperity for all our people is the ultimate and common goal.”
The Children’s Rights Alliance recommendations are as follows:
We should push for a soft-Brexit where the UK remains in international EU agreements and instruments that are fundamental for the protection of children and young people. An additional bilateral British-Irish Agreement can cover specific areas.
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 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 citizens 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 UK and 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 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.
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 meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Good Friday Agreement takes place from 12pm today and is broadcast live on the Oireachtas website