Bringing Children's Rights to Bear on Brexit

As the world’s leading authority on children’s experiences under EU law and policy, Professor Helen Stalford has been at the forefront of the campaign to bring children’s rights into the Brexit negotiations. She has played a central role in raising public and practitioners’ awareness, informing policy debates and shaping legal developments on the implications of Brexit for children. This has included close collaboration with wide and varied audiences, including civil society organisations, the Home Office, Parliamentarians and legal practitioners.

The Challenge

Brexit has more profound implications for children than virtually any other group. Not only do they represent one quarter of the UK population, they will also bear the consequences of Brexit for longer than any adult. That said, children had no say in the referendum and have had limited means to make their voices and interests heard in the course of the Brexit debates. Our research therefore seeks to address this problem, ensuring that children's rights, experiences and views are taken into account.

Research Action

In May 2019, Professor Helen Stalford (right) participated in a 'Rights without Remedies' seminar panel with Sir Keir Starmer QC MP and Coram in a call for children's rights to be upheld. View the report: Keir Starmer and Coram call for children's rights to be upheld (PDF). 

Working in partnerships

Professor Helen Stalford is a co-founder of the Brexit and Children Coalition, a UK-wide network of over 30 children’s rights organisations and experts, including The Children’s Society, The Children’s Rights Alliance for England, the National Children’s Bureau, Barnardos, Coram, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Building on over 20 years of research by Stalford, the Coalition’s work has directly fed into discussions across government departments around the EU Settlement scheme and protection for particularly marginalised groups of children (such as trafficked children, children living in poverty, and children at risk of abduction and other forms of harm) following Brexit.

In response to these efforts, and informed by Stalford research on children’s access to justice, Stalford has been appointed by the Home Office to design and lead a UK-wide consultation with children and young people about their understanding and access to the EU settlement scheme with a view to developing child-friendly resources and support.

Outputs and outcomes


'UK failing vulnerable asylum seekers, and Brexit will make it worse'
Read the University of Liverpool news article, published on 22 October 2019


Books, reports and journals

References to the research can be found in the following books, journals and briefing reports:

  1. Stalford, H. (2012) Children and the European Union: Rights, Welfare and Accountability, (Oxford: Hart Publishing) – particularly chapters 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7.
  2. Stalford, H. (2012) ‘For Better, For Worse: The Relationship between EU Citizenship and the Development of Cross-border Family Law in Dougan, M., Nic Shuibhne, N., and Spaventa, E. (eds) (2012) Empowerment and Disempowerment of the European Citizen (Oxford, Hart) pp. 1-24.
  3. Stalford, H. ‘Using the Convention on the Rights of the Child in litigation under EU law’ in Liefaard, T. and Doek, J. (eds) (2014) Litigating the Rights of the Child, (London, Springer)
  4. Iusmen, I and Stalford, H. (2016) The EU as a Children’s Rights Actor: Law, Policy and Structural Dimensions (London: Budrich Academic Publishers) – particularly the concluding chapter
  5. Stalford, H., Cairns, L. and Marshall, J. Achieving Child Friendly Justice Through Child Friendly Methods: Let’s Start with the Right to Information, Social Inclusion, 2017, 5(3), 207
  6. Stalford, H. (2019 forthcoming,) ‘Protecting children against the effects of Brexit: identifying strategies and building capacities’, Child and Family Law Quarterly.
  7. Stalford, H. in collaboration with members of the Brexit and Children Coalition (2017) Making Brexit work for Children
  8. Hollingsworth, K. and Stalford H. (2019) Briefing - The EU Settled Status Scheme and Children in Conflict with the Law

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