Prime Minister Theresa May has signed the letter which kick starts the UK’s departure from the EU. Whilst this is just a formality and we are unlikely to see big changes on the ground as a result of Article 50 being triggered, questions are now being asked about the impact of Brexit on families, and family law and policy.
At the moment most of the commentary is based on speculation. Last year concerns over what might happen to children being looked after by EU citizens were raised, with some fearing that carers or guardians would have to leave Britain and in so doing place children in precarious situations. Bleak views suggesting that Brexit would lead to the erosion of children’s rights were also expressed.
Across social media platforms, family lawyers have suggested that things may not change as drastically as we imagine, with the UK simply enacting its own legislation and policies to mimic those currently shared with the EU, whilst others see Brexit as an opportunity to improve on existing family legislation in order to provide a much more tailored set of laws for families in the UK.
However the child protection debate after Brexit continues to raise concerns. Child trafficking in particular is a big issue, with a Parliamentary watchdog warning that the UK could place more children at risk by leaving the EU, as it would effectively lose some very important legal protections for this group of vulnerable children.
The Children’s Society also published a report looking at the impact of Brexit on children’s rights, which raised concerns over child safety and called on the government to clarify its position in relation to ensuring children were not placed at risk during and after the separation process. Some commentators though, have taken the view that the debate on trafficking and border control is not as clear cut as it might seem, offering thoughts on how Brexit could either aggravate trafficking, or reduce it, depending on where you stand in relation to border control and its effects on freedom of movement.
Although no one knows what the long term effects of Brexit will be on children, families and child welfare as a whole, worrying short term signs are already there. Theresa May has announced plans to make welfare cuts which are predicted to plunge more than a million children into poverty, no doubt a move to try to bolster the economy ahead of Brexit’s full implementation.
Researching Reform predicts a very serious economic downturn for the UK, as it tries to steady itself after leaving the EU. This will undoubtedly have a devastating effect on child welfare. What do you think?