Brexit: Access to education and other children’s rights
Edith van Ruitenbeek is a lawyer, mediator and partner at Van Hilten Advocaten & Mediators, a practice which specialises in (inter)national family law.
When moving from one country to another, finding the right school – in terms of creating the best opportunities for obtaining the necessary diplomas to face the global future – used to be easier for British kids than for others. This, due to the many British schools, or at least schools with a curriculum in English, across the globe that help prepare kids for a global career.
Will Brexit change things for the many British kids living in the Netherlands?
There are British parents, who have lived an expat life for many, many years, who fear that they or their children will be “landlocked” after Brexit – instead of being free to move, at least in the EU, to study and work as they are accustomed to.
A group of British nationals living in the Netherlands has therefore made a legal bid at the Amsterdam court to retain their EU citizenship after Brexit, arguing that their rights cannot be removed under European law. They have asked the court to refer their case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), arguing that their rights as EU citizens are enshrined in article 20 of the Lisbon treaty.
The idea was that if the Dutch judge referred the case to the Luxembourg court, it would have implications for all Britons, based on a concern about what the loss of EU citizenship will mean for the million or so UK citizens who live, work and study in the EU.
Once an EU citizen, always an EU citizen? That’s the question!
The British citizens who are bringing the case against the Dutch government argued that anyone who has UK citizenship before March 29, 2019, should legally retain EU rights – including freedom of movement and the right of residence afterwards. Their lawyer argued that the Lisbon treaty gives them the right to retain EU citizenship after Brexit because it states, in article 20, that “citizenship of the EU shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship”.
Although the defendants, the Dutch state and the Municipality of Amsterdam primarily argued that the issue is a matter of politics and that there is no real dispute, the Dutch judge did, in fact, decide last February 7, to refer the case to the ECJ to definitively interpret what this “additional” citizenship means. In other words, whether the rights of EU-citizens could be the subject of a withdrawal agreement or whether they are acquired, non-negotiable, rights.
As a family lawyer with an international practice, I embrace the initiative of these British citizens, especially as every effort should be made to see to it that children’s rights aren’t diminished as a consequence of Brexit.
Luckily, UNICEF has made a strong statement, saying that all negotiations and subsequent laws and policies regarding Brexit should be made with proper regard for children’s rights under the United Nations Convention of the Right of the Child (UNCRC), ratified by the UK in 1991.
That the case has been referred to the ECJ is important, especially given the fact that times are changing, not only due to conflicts on other continents that have a worldwide impact, but also because of the increasing number of elected presidents in so-called civilised democracies – also within the EU – who seem, not only inclined to deny human rights and children’s rights, but to even jeopardize them.
Edith van Ruitenbeek is a lawyer and partner at Van Hilten Advocaten & Mediators, Nassaulaan 15 Den Haag and De Lairessestraat 129 in Amsterdam.