I have received a large volume of emails from constituents who are concerned about the issues surrounding family reunion. I continue to believe strongly that we need to do all we can to help the world’s most vulnerable people. The UK granted protection to over 7,700 children in 2019, and to 42,500 children in the past decade.
The UK’s resettlement schemes offer a safe and legal route to the UK for the most vulnerable refugees. Over 19,300 people have been resettled through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and over 1,700 have been resettled through the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme.
The Prime Minister made clear the importance that the Government places on ensuring that unaccompanied children who are seeking international protection in an EU Member State can continue to be reunited with specified family members who are in the UK, as well as children in the UK with family in the EU, following the UK’s exit from the EU.
Relevant measures in the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act are primarily about clarifying the role of Government and Parliament in negotiations. It is right that a statutory obligation to negotiate was removed from earlier versions of the Act to ensure the traditional division between Government and Parliament was restored, and the negotiations ahead can be carried out with full flexibility and in an appropriate manner across all policy areas.
A statutory obligation to negotiate with the EU will not itself lead to an agreement. That is not in the gift of the UK Government alone as it requires EU cooperation at a time of complex negotiations. The Act required the Government to lay a statement before Parliament on its policy regarding any future arrangements between the UK and the EU regarding the family reunification for unaccompanied children seeking international protection. You may be reassured to know that the Government made this statement in March and I was glad that Ministers outlined clearly how the UK believes British withdrawal from the EU does not alter our commitment to this vital issue.
At the first round of the negotiations on the UK-EU future relationship, which also took place in March, our negotiating team outlined the UK's proposals as published in the document ‘The Future Relationship with the EU – The UK’s Approach to Negotiations’. In that document the Government has clearly stated its commitment to negotiate a reciprocal agreement in this area and I understand the EU is now considering the UK's proposals.