How the government is using children like my daughter as pawns in their destructive Brexit game

Irina von Wiese
Brexit is fraught with angry citizens on both sides: Getty

It can be a frightening experience for a child to be labelled a non-person, If you doubt me, ask my daughter.

That is effectively what my daughter and tens of thousands like her have been turned into by an under-reported scandal - how the government is using British-born children as pawns in their destructive Brexit game.

My daughter Alexia, 15, has still not been granted UK citizenship despite being born here to two long-term UK resident European parents. Her fault is to have been born in the wrong year.

A failure to implement European law between 2002 and 2006 means that children born in the UK to settled EU citizens did not automatically obtain British citizenship, but need to register first - with a price tag of £1,040. Any child in the same situation born before 2002 or after 2006 just receives British citizenship. Now, after a long-running but hitherto unsuccessful battle with the Home Office, Alexia is being forced to apply for ‘settled status’ or, if Brexit happens, face deportation at the end of 2020. The Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ has become ever more hostile in the era of Brexit. It openly discriminates against families and those unable to pay expensive fees.

Other children face even more uncertain futures. Since my election as a Liberal Democrat MEP, my postbag has been filled with heart-wrenching stories of lives left in the lurch, families torn apart, and young people who have known no home but Britain suddenly made to feel “other”, unwelcome, not wanted here. I know many readers will have similar stories – stories that a few years back would have been utterly unimaginable in our supposedly enlightened liberal democracy.

The latest Home Office figures reveal that thousands of children from the EU are being left in legal limbo. Of the 116,890 under-18s who have applied, so far fewer than one in two have been granted settled status. Some 69,750 have been granted the weaker pre-Settled Status which only offers temporary residency, while a scandalous 67,530 are still waiting for any kind of outcome at all.

This is part of a much bigger scandal. In total 1.86 million EU nationals have applied for settled status, but only 929,580 have been offered permanent residency. In Boris Johnson's own local authority area of Hillingdon, fewer than half the 18,330 EU nationals who have applied have so far been granted permanent residency.

This gives you just an idea of the huge scale of this injustice, but not the misery happening at a personal level to families across the UK. Tens of thousands of young people are being left worrying at night because they don’t know if they will be allowed to stay in the only country that has ever been their home.

This is why the Liberal Democrats, as the strongest party of remain, are fighting with such passion in this election to stop Brexit and build a brighter future for our country. Not only is this damaging on an economic level - tens of billions of pounds for the Johnson deal alone, according to independent analysis – there is a huge human cost. It is vital that we get more Liberal Democrat MPs elected to fight this life-wrecking Brexit: because my daughter is not a non-person, and nor are thousands like her.

Irina von Wiese is a Liberal Democrat MEP for London