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Children’s Commissioner urges EU not to use children’s residency status as ‘bargaining chip’

Issue of ECJ jurisdiction needs to be separated

The Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has written to the EU's Brexit Chief Negotiator, Michael Barnier, urging the EU to take a more constructive approach to the residency status of hundreds of thousands of children born to EU nationals but living in England, and the thousands of UK born children living in other EU countries.

In the letter, the Children's Commissioner also calls on the EU to separate out the issue of ECJ jurisdiction from citizens' immigration rights so that an agreement can be made swiftly, and warns that a refusal to do so will turn children into bargaining chips in the talks. She points out that any hold up in an agreement keeps children in limbo at a time when many are anxious about what will happen to them post-Brexit.

According to the ONS, there are 588,000 children in England who are EU nationals – 260,000 estimated to be born in Britain – who do not currently know what rights they will have to remain in the UK after Britain leaves the EU. The implications for children who may have to leave the UK post-Brexit are huge – they would be leaving behind their friends, often other family members and seriously disrupting their school lives. The current position for these children is complex and they face a range of uncertainties coupled with numerous legal and bureaucratic obstacles.

The Children's Commissioner has also written to the UK Government's Brexit Secretary David Davis asking for clarification on the British Government's proposals around nationality. Today's letter to Michael Barnier reflects the Children's Commissioner's concerns that in contrast to detailed proposals put forward by the UK, the EU has asserted a set of principles without any detail as to how they would work in practice.

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, said:

"The EU said they wanted to make residence rights of EU nationals the first thing to be agreed during the negotiations. Yet their proposal makes residence rights dependent on ECJ jurisdiction, something which won't be agreed until the end of the negotiations.

"If the EU genuinely want to resolve the question of residence rights of EU nationals, they need to separate out the two issues to enable a negotiation in good faith which can give certainty to the hundreds of thousands of children and their families left in limbo. Two more years of uncertainty feels like a long time to a child."