Brexit: ‘EU Withdrawal Act is sloppy legislation, rushed through by an arrogant government’

In January 2020 MPs voted down proposals to enshrine protections for child refugees as part of the Government’s Brexit agreement.

Following his election victory, Boris Johnson re-drafted his European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and rowed back on the previous government’s acceptance of an amendment from Labour peer Lord Dubs to allow unaccompanied child refugees to continue to be reunited with their families in the UK after exit day.

Clause 37 of the Bill replaces the pledge with a watered-down vow for ministers to “make a statement” on the progress of the talks once the divorce with Brussels is complete.

Labour branded the move “disgraceful”, while the SNP said it could have “tragic consequences”.

Ahead of the debate, Labour leadership hopeful, at the time, Sir Keir Starmer and Lord Dubs, who fled from the Nazis on the Kindertransport to Britain when he was aged six, wrote to all Tory MPs calling on them to vote against the Prime Minister’s “disgraceful” change.

In the Commons chamber, SNP home affairs spokeswoman Joanna Cherry urged the Government to accept proposals to protect child refugees after Brexit or risk “tragic consequences”.

She told MPs: “Right now, across Europe, there are thousands of unaccompanied children living in the most desperate circumstances, many of whom are separated from their families.

“And legal family reunion is a lifeline to these children who would otherwise risk their lives in dinghies or in the back of lorries in order to reach a place of safety with their family.”

She added: “For the Government to seek to remove those protections now risks causing panic amongst refugee families currently separated in Europe with potentially tragic consequences.”

Lord Dubs

Now Lord Dubs has adressed his dismay at the fall out from this rejection of protections to protect child refugees. He took to Twitter to discuss his conerns.


“I don’t wish to reopen the Brexit debate. But what is clear is that the EU Withdrawal Act is sloppy legislation, rushed through by an arrogant government & it leaves some of the most vulnerable children in the UK undocumented and facing an insecure future.”


“Last year the govt opposed my amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which sought to fast-track children in care and care leavers who hold EU passports through the EU settlement scheme. Many have called the UK home all their lives. The govt assured us the amendment wasn’t needed.”


But more than 50% of these children have still to apply for settled status, that’s 2,000 children – particularly the most vulnerable – who may unknowingly find themselves living here unlawfully come 1 July (3/5)


“It can never be in a child’s best interests to be undocumented. Without settled status they could be unable to access vital services or work, could be detained or removed. As with Windrush, years can pass before children when they came here learn that they are undocumented.”


“These children should be given automatic and indefinite leave to remain.” 

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Joe Mellor

Head of Content

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