The Committee stage of the EU withdrawal bill will take place on 21st February 2018. The Children’s Society has produced a briefing ahead of the Committee on the protection and promotion of children’s rights and Danielle Cohen Solicitors have endorsed and supported these briefings. As our readers will know, by withdrawing from the European Union, the framework of human rights will also be withdrawn from. These are the rights that ensure that children are protected. The withdrawal Bill intends to bring existing EU legislation into UK law and Danielle Cohen Solicitors have endorsed the efforts of the Children’s Society, together with other organisations, protecting children’s rights and asking Parliament that the fundamental rights of children are not diluted. As the Bill currently stands, the UK will no longer be party to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and children will not automatically benefit from the rights protections that currently exist whilst the UK is still in Europe.
The Bill grants broad powers to Ministers to amend the EU law in line with domestic priorities, but there is no commitment to uphold the fundamental rights of children. Therefore, there is no guarantee that respect for children’s rights will be held in due regard by future Governments, when amendments are made to statute. Recommendations in the briefings produced by the Children’s Rights organisations, requires Ministers and Public Authorities to have due regard to the UN Convention on the rights of the child when implementing, amending or repealing any laws necessitated by the withdrawal from the EU. From our work with children, and from our dealings with the Home Office, we know that children’s rights are currently protected. The first protection is the European Convention on Human Rights. The second is the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the third is the UN Convention on the rights of the child, and of course domestic law. In England children’s rights are protected in domestic legislation through the Children’s Act 1989 and 2004 and the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporated the European Convention of Human Rights in the UK and provides protection for children’s civil and political rights, and in particular the right to private and family life, Article 8, and the right to be protected from inhumane or degrading treatment Article 3 and the right to a fair trial, Article 6.
Section 55 of the Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 requires that Immigration Authorities discharge their functions having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in the UK. Whilst this commitment to children’s rights in domestic law are welcome, they do not cover the full range of children’s rights entitlement, currently regulated by the EU and there are serious concerns about shortcomings in the way that they may be interpreted in the future.
Danielle will attend briefing sessions for members of the House of Lords on 22nd February 2018, which will set out the issues raised in these briefings.