In November 2017, a cross-border conference called ‘It’s Our Brexit Too: Children’s Rights, Children’s Voices’ was held by a group of 120 young people from Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.
The aim of the conference was to discuss how Brexit will affect the lives of young people on both sides of the border, and bring together key messages and recommendations to be shared with decision makers on all sides of the Brexit process.
Brexit and young people
Of those young people who were eligible to vote on Brexit in 2016, 75% of 18-24 year olds voted to remain as part of the EU. Those who were too young to vote did not have an opportunity to have their say on whether or not the UK should leave the EU. This group of young people will be most affected by Brexit, as they will be living with the consequences of the UK leaving the EU.
As put by Alex, a member of the Brexit Youth Steering Group, “We will be the first generation to live with the full impact of the Brexit decision, yet we did not get the opportunity to vote on this.”
Brexit and Northern Ireland
Young people in Northern Ireland feel the potential effects of Brexit strongly, as their lives may be split across the border. This includes where they go to school, accessing things like healthcare services, and a disruption to their family life if their parents live on separate sides of the border.
It’s Our Brexit Too, Children’s Rights, Children’s Voices Report
After a day of discussion and debate between young people at the conference, the key messages and recommendations were pulled together into a report.
This report was handed to Brexit MPs and officials in Westminster on Monday, 5th March. It is hoped that this report will help to influence discussions and decision making on Brexit by both the UK and EU negotiating teams.
Key messages and recommendations
Key concerns of young people across the border include:
- Freedom of movement across the border, promoting ease of public transport moving across the border and the issue of roaming charges when travelling from one side of the border to the other.
- A hard border should be avoided at all costs, and the Good Friday Agreement should be protected to avoid a return to conflict.
- Ireland-wide cooperation on health care and disability services should continue after Brexit.
- Healthcare should be accessible to everyone close to where they live, even if the service is across the border.
- Ambulances must not be delayed when crossing the border.
- It is important to assess the impact Brexit could have on young people with disabilities
- No student should have to move school because of Brexit.
- Students should be able to freely move across the border to attend their school, including allowing school busses to cross over.
- Access to further education and colleges across the border should not be restricted. This includes preventing an increase in fees for cross-border students.
- It is important that both UK and Irish governments, and the EU, continue to cooperate in the area of child protection.
- Northern Ireland should develop policies on discrimination, including protecting the rights of migrants, women, and LGBTI+ people.
For more information on the EU and Brexit visit the SpunOut EU Hub.