The education secretary Nicky Morgan has said she believes all children born to EU national parents, but resident in the UK, should be guaranteed continued access to their education.
The government has refused to ensure that EU nationals living within the UK will be able to remain if Article 50 – the mechanism for leaving the European Union (EU) – is invoked and the country leaves the EU.
Immigration minister James Brockenshire said today in the House of Commons that it would be “unwise” to guarantee rights to remain without “parallel assurances” that British people living abroad would also have their rights reciprocated.
The policy means children with parents of EU nationality face an uncertain future which, according to Patrick Grady, Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow North, is impacting on their schooling.
At an education questions sessions in the Commons shortly before the immigration statement was delivered, Grady asked Morgan if she would make it a policy that all schoolchildren who are non-UK EU nationals would retain access to the education system if the UK left the EU.
Morgan reminded that “as a matter of principle” all children resident in the UK receive a free state school education under provisions reaching back to 1880.
“The UK remains a member of the EU until the Article 50 negotiations have concluded, which could take two years or more.
“Until the process is completed, nothing will change,” she said.
But Morgan also added her personal opinion, stating: “I think that EU citizens including children already here should have the right to remain.”
Throughout the referendum Morgan was a staunch supporter for the Remain campaign, claiming that a vote to leave would put opportunities for young people “at risk” and limit the number of languages teachers.
Asked if she recognised the impact that “such uncertainty is having on children” and for assurances that children would not be used as “bargaining chips”, the education secretary said she did.
“I completely take his point,” Morgan said of Grady’s argument, before adding that the government “should of course make sure” that any children resident in the UK were able to have continued access to schooling.