Posted: 27 July 2017

How could Brexit affect children?

Amidst the talks of Brexit, one group remains neglected in the negotiations: children

It’s really important that we – and especially, the Government - get a grip on how children and young people could be affected by Brexit. Without a vote their voices largely went unheard, yet it is their future and their rights that will be impacted the most.

Absent voices

Negotiations are underway and Brexit will dominate the political agenda for the foreseeable future, with eight new Brexit Bills set to be introduced over the coming two years. One of these includes a Repeal Bill, which will transfer EU law into UK law. As these bills are introduced and debated in Parliament, it is essential that children and young people are kept safe, protected and that their rights are upheld as we leave the EU.

So what do we want the Government to do?

We are calling on the government to make the following commitments for children and young people:

1. Act in the best interests of EU children living in the UK

There’s a risk that children from the EU who currently live in the UK may be overlooked. Under current rules, EU migrants can apply for ‘permanent residence rights’ in the UK if they are able to evidence five years of work in the UK. If, following Brexit, the right to stay in the UK were to be based on demonstrating ‘permanent residence’, this would mean that a young person’s right to live in the UK would depend on their parents’ work status.

Clearly, children have no control over their parents’ migratory and employment choices, or their misfortunes. The Government should make a commitment therefore to all EU children living in the UK that decisions about where they live will be based on their best interests, and not on their parents’ employment history.

2. Protect children’s safety

The cooperative way the UK works with EU countries has been essential in helping to fight crimes such as child sexual exploitation (CSE). Europol’s Cybercrime Centre for example helps to tackle the cross-border use of technology that targets children for CSE.

Keeping children safe is an issue that requires cross-border working and for this reason, it must be addressed during Brexit discussions. The Government needs to ensure that the UK has continued membership of Europol and Eurojust, and participation in the European Arrest Warrant and other necessary cross-border mechanisms, to maintain and improve safeguarding for children on and offline.

3. Take action against child poverty

There are currently four million children living in poverty in the UK and it is predicted this number will rise to five million by 2020. The current benefits freeze and the rising costs of living are key contributors to this worryingly high and increasing number. As the UK leaves the EU, this problem could worsen even more if prices rise further due to the falling value of the pound. In this context, the Government should end the freeze on benefits and tax credits for children and families, which is currently in place until 2020.

In addition to this, the European Social Fund (ESF) is an important pot of funding that helps children and young people. The fund improves access to employment for young people and from 2014-2020, will be worth 4.9 billion euros across the UK. With the potential loss of this fund following Brexit, the Government need to commit to retaining or replacing provision for children in disadvantaged communities that are currently paid for through the ESF.

Listen up, Westminster

Children and young people were not given a say in the decision to leave the EU, yet the decision will have a profound impact on their lives. For this reason, it is more important than ever that the Government listens to their voices as the formal process to leave the EU continues.

By Charlotte Rainer - Policy team
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