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Fundamental Rights Charter must be part of EU Withdrawal Bill, say children’s rights NGOs

Eurochild national partner network members Children in Wales, Children’s Rights Alliance for England, Children in Scotland and Children’s Rights Alliance (Ireland) joined Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) and representatives from the Children’s Commissioner’s offices for an event on ‘Children’s Rights following Brexit’ which took place in Westminster on 13th September.

The seminar was organised by the European Children’s Rights Unit (University of Liverpool) in partnership with a number of non-governmental organisations, and provided an opportunity to hear directly from child rights advocates from across the UK, alongside Members of Parliament and representatives from the devolved administrations.

The outcome of UK withdrawal from the European Union (EU) will have lasting implications and consequences for children living in the EU and the UK, including the devolved nations.  This seminar set out some of the key priorities which will affect those under 18 and considered what actions needed to be taken to ensure that they receive appropriate exposure in the broader Brexit negotiations.

As the EU (Withdrawal) Bill progresses through Parliament, the seminar provided a timely opportunity to consider possible amendments which could be submitted to help ensure that the human rights of children are not lost or forgotten when existing EU laws are transferred from Brussels to the UK in March 2019.

The Seminar focused on 5 key priorities

  • The Status of EU national children in the UK
  • The Potential implications for Child Protection and Safeguarding
  • Children and Young people living in Poverty
  • The transportation of EU law and children’s rights
  • That the views of children and young people are heard and taken seriously

Drawing on the National Networks Statement and Call to Action, members drew attention to the distinct challenges which will confront children and young people in the devolved nations of the UK and Ireland, including the need to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland and meaningfully engage the Welsh and Scottish Governments as part the Brexit negotiations.

Eurochild members also raised concerns over the UK Government’s rejection of calls to fully incorporate the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights into law, believing that this was not necessary as a number of the Charter rights were already located in UN treaties which the UK Government have ratified.  Yet the repeated reluctance of successive UK Governments to fully incorporate UN human rights treaties, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law, in spite of successive UN Committee recommendations, has resulted in children not having an equivalent legislative protection under UK law.  In the absence of the UNCRC being brought fully into UK law, the Charter must now be transposed fully through the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

National Network members in UK and Ireland will continue to work closely with Eurochild secretariat and their members to champion the rights of children and young people as negotiations and dialogue continues.  The forthcoming meeting of National Partner Networks of Eurochild in Belgrade in October will provide an opportunity to update the rest of the national networks.