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Children's Commissioner urges Michel Barnier not to use families as 'bargaining chips'

John Ashmore

2 min read

The Children’s Commissioner for England has written to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, pleading with him not to use children and families as a “bargaining chip” during Brexit talks.

In a letter to Mr Barnier, Anne Longfield says the concerns of children have so far been “little more than a footnote” in the Brexit debate about migrants and residence rights.

She urges him to separate the issues of citizenship from the bigger legal question over the European Court of Justice, which will not be finalised until the end of the negotiations.

“Refusal to do this would suggest the EU is not prioritising citizens’ rights and the interests of children and is instead attempting to use adults and children as a bargaining chip,” she writes.

Ms Longfield also seeks assurances for children worried that taking up British citizenship could mean losing the citizenship of their country of birth.

And she warns that any hold-up in an agreement will mean prolonged uncertainty for children of EU nationals in the UK, and the children of Britons living on the continent.

“The EU said they wanted to make residence rights of EU nationals the first thing to be agreed during the negotiations,” Ms Longfield said in a statement.

“Yet their proposal makes residence rights dependent on ECJ jurisdiction, something which won’t be agreed until the end of the negotiations.”

In a separate letter to David Davis, she lists a series of technical questions still to be resolved, including whether a child obtaining ‘settled status’ will depend on their parents’ status.

She also asks the Brexit Secretary whether children will have to prove they have been in the UK for five years, and if so what evidence will need to be provided. 

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