A great deal of political debate has taken place since the referendum was announced in February 2016. You may remember that behind closed doors, there were deep discussions at the European Council to decide a new settlement for the UK in the EU (you may also remember that Angela Merkel nipped out of the meeting for a bag of chips, but that’s beside the point). It is important to cast our minds back to the deals made and how they will be taken forward in the event of either a ‘vote remain’ or ‘vote leave’ result.
To make things clear, the set of arrangements agreed to will only be taken forward in the event that the UK votes to remain a member of the EU. If the UK votes to leave the EU, the arrangements will ‘cease to exist.’
So, what does this set of arrangements include?
There are 7 proposals and you can read them in detail here (European Council Meeting Conclusions – PDF).
We have been speaking with our members regarding the proposal to provide countries in the EU with the option to index the amount of child benefit given to migrant workers to where the child resides. For example, a father is working and living in the UK and receives child benefit for his child or children living in Poland. The payment he receives will be lowered to match that “the standard of living and the level of child benefits applicable in that Member State.” A second proposal included will allow EU countries to limit in-work benefits to migrant workers to respond to an influx of migrant workers of an ‘exceptional magnitude.’
Here at Eurochild we work to make sure that children and young people are visible in decisions being made which affect their lives. We try to ensure that governments and other decision-makers consider what is in children and young people’s best interests; to ensure that there is a focus on supporting the needs of vulnerable groups of the population, and that children and young people are able to voice their opinions and to be heard in decisions affecting them.
If the UK votes to remain as part of the EU then the proposals will be taken forward. Eurochild members have highlighted concern that they may contradict efforts to improve social protection systems so that they better respond to the needs of children and families. At present there are approximately 28 million children living in poverty in the EU and over one in four children are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Viewed through a children’s rights lens, child poverty is understood as a multi-dimensional phenomenon, encompassing not only income deprivation, but also other forms of deprivation and loss of dignity – lack of access to appropriate housing and living environment, education, health services, social services in the field of prevention and care, and a more general lack of opportunity in society. Combating child poverty is now part of a new global development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals, which highlight that child poverty is a universal challenge that requires a response at the national, European and global level.
Some of our members have also highlighted that being part of the EU offers the opportunity to influence future decisions being made, to help ensure that children and young people can shape a more ‘social Europe.’
If the UK votes to leave the EU the proposals will not be taken forward. There is uncertainty on the processes and procedures which would take effect in the UK in this scenario, and whether the UK government might seek to take forward similar proposals on their own accord.
So, as the UK EU referendum looms, it is important to be aware of the arrangements agreed to by the European Council on a new settlement for the UK in the EU, so that we can be prepared for both eventualities.
By Emma Grindulis
Advocacy and Parliamentary Officer, Eurochild