Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 31 March 2020

UK politicians remove promise to reunite child migrants with families from Brexit bill

Promise was made in 2018 by former British prime minister Theresa May

Boris Johnson's government has removed a clause from the UK's Brexit bill committing it to reunite child migrants with their families. AFP
Boris Johnson's government has removed a clause from the UK's Brexit bill committing it to reunite child migrants with their families. AFP

British politicians have overturned changes to the government’s Brexit bill, removing a promise to reunite child refugees with their families in the UK.

As the bill goes through its final stages before becoming law, the House of Commons on Wednesday removed five amendments inserted into the Withdrawal Agreement Bill by the unelected House of Lords.

Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on January 31.

The Lords voted on Tuesday to demand that post-Brexit Britain continues to let unaccompanied migrant children in EU countries join relatives living in the UK.

The promise was made in 2018 by former British prime minister Theresa May, but it was removed from the Brexit legislation after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won a big parliamentary majority in an election last month.

Mr Johnson's government says it intends to continue resettling child migrants in Britain after the country leaves the EU but the issue does not belong in the EU withdrawal bill, which sets out the terms of Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said an agreement on taking in the children “is ultimately a matter that must be negotiated with the EU, and the government is committed to seeking the best possible outcome in those negotiations".

But opposition Labour politician Yvette Cooper accused Mr Johnson's government of planning to “betray the commitments that have been made to the most vulnerable children of all".

The House of Commons also stripped out changes made by the Lords to bolster the rights of EU citizens in Britain.

The bill now goes back to the Lords. But all the wrangling will not stop the Brexit bill becoming law within days, because the House of Commons can override the Lords.

The EU Parliament also must approve the Brexit divorce deal before next week.

A vote by the European Parliament is expected next week.

Updated: January 23, 2020 12:42 AM

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