Children’s Commissioners join forces to issue warning on Brexit

A British Newspaper has revealed that the children’s commissioners of the four UK nations are preparing to increase the pressure on Brexit negotiators to protect children’s rights.

The i newspaper says that the UK’s four children’s commissioners have joined forces to warn the Government that young people’s rights risk being watered down by Brexit, according to The independent tsars representing children in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have drafted a joint letter supported by their counterparts in more than 30 other countries.

The newspaper reports that, in the letter, the commissioners call for the status of EU nationals in the UK to be secured as soon as possible, warning that the current uncertain situation is deeply upsetting for children and their families.

The Commissioners add that Brexit must not undermine the safety of children in the UK, pointing out that the EU has led the way in clamping down on cross-border crimes such as child trafficking, child abduction and child sexual exploitation. The document will also call on the Government and the EU to ensure that children’s voices are represented in the negotiations, pointing out that the outcome will have a huge impact on their futures despite them being unable to vote in last year’s referendum.

‘Children worried about Brexit’

The i reports that document is set to be published imminently by the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) once a final version is agreed by the members of the 34 countries involved. In an interview with the i, Scotland’s children’s commissioner Bruce Adamson said it would be sent to the UK Government, the EU negotiating team and the other 27 EU member states. “It will set out these points of concern and consideration, and ask everyone involved in the negotiation process to consider children’s rights,” he said. “We’re talking to both sides.”

Mr Adamson, who was appointed in May, raised his concerns with the Scottish Government earlier this week during a meeting with Brexit Minister Michael Russell. He said Brexit often came up in his regular conversations with children and their parents.

“Children are worried at the moment. There’s a lot going on in the world that makes the world seem like a bit of an unsafe place”

Bruce Adamson, Scottish Children’s Commissioner

“Children are worried at the moment. There’s a lot going on in the world that makes the world seem like a bit of an unsafe place,” he added. “We’ve just seen what happened in Las Vegas, the attacks in Manchester, in London, the Grenfell fire and the geopolitical stuff in North Korea. Children are aware of these things, so the world seems quite unsafe. Brexit is wrapped up in that.”

He called for the UK Government to be “much clearer” about the status of EU nationals in the UK after Brexit, saying this was “hugely important” for children and their families. He also said the voice of children had so far been “missing” in the negotiations in Brussels, with politicians on either side apparently unconcerned about hearing their views.

‘Welcome intervention’

Mr Russell said: “We welcome the intervention from the UK Children’s Commissioners raising concerns that children are being forgotten in the Brexit process. This issue was discussed during a meeting between myself, Mr Adamson and other young people’s representative groups and we will be continuing that dialogue in the coming months.

“Brexit is by far the biggest threat to Scotland and that is why we have always been clear that remaining within the EU is the best option for our future. We believe it is vital that the opinions of children and young people are heard during these negotiations as it is their future that is being shaped.”

A spokeswoman for the UK government’s department for exiting the EU said:

“As the Prime Minister has said, the UK and EU share a profound sense of responsibility to make this change work smoothly and sensibly, not just for people today but for the next generation who will inherit the world we leave them. As part of the negotiations we will ensure that a wide range of perspectives are considered. The department has already been speaking to child and youth advocacy groups and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months.”

Source: The i
Photo: Getty Images / The i

Author: Adrian Voce

President of the European Network for Child Friendly Cities

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