Brexit negotiations: Deal must be a success for EU’s youth

AT the opening of parliament in London yesterday, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth set out her government’s legislative plans which focus largely on Brexit. 

They include a Repeal Bill to overturn the 1972 act which took Britain into the EEC in 1973, the same year that Ireland joined.

Brexit was also on the agenda during talks between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party as prime minister Theresa May faced the embarrassment of her queen’s speech going ahead without the backing of the DUP — 10 days after she claimed a deal was done.

May is seeking a broad consensus for Brexit as substantive negotiations get under way in Brussels while the DUP wants greater investment in Northern Ireland in return for propping up her Tory government.

However, nowhere in those negotiations nor in the talks in Brussels has the question of what Brexit means to young people been noted specifically or seen as coming high on the agenda. This is despite the fact that Brexit will affect young people the most not just in the UK, but in Ireland and, possibly, in other remaining EU states as well.

Children often have a tendency to be ignored by officialdom. In Ireland we continue to use adult mental health units to treat children while waiting lists for their care are still rising.

During what has been noted so far of Brexit talks, it is all about adults talking to adults about adults. That may be about to change, thanks to the efforts of Eurochild, an umbrella organisation which represents more than 1,800 children’s rights groups in Europe.

Eurochild is demanding discussions with key EU and UK negotiators, among them Michel Barnier of the European Commission, Guy Verhofstadt of the European Parliament and David Davis, the UK’s secretary of state for exiting the European Union.

The organisation wants to ensure there will be no roll-back of children’s rights in the UK and they are particularly concerned for young people in Northern Ireland amid the danger that Brexit poses to the Good Friday Agreement. Most importantly, Eurochild also wants a mechanism for both sides to listen to young people as part of Brexit negotiations.

It is remarkable that no senior politician either in the UK, Ireland or Brussels has appeared to recognise fully the effect that Brexit will have on children or the importance of taking their concerns into account.

The full process of Brexit may have to be extended with predictions that it may take as long as ten years. If that is the case, it is likely that millions of those older people in the UK who voted to leave the EU will have died, while the effects of Brexit will linger for the younger generation for decades.

Perhaps our Brexit negotiator Simon Coveney could champion the cause of all European children, instead of focusing solely on Irish concerns during talks in Brussels and London.

The right for young people to be heard should be paramount in Brexit negotiations, not sidelined. Being without a vote shouldn’t mean being without a voice.


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