Children abducted abroad by alienated parents could be stranded if Britain and the EU cease judicial cooperation following the departure of the UK.
In a newly published policy paper, the government sets out its hopes for cooperation between English and EU member state courts after Brexit, and outlines possible outcomes if negotiations end without an agreement. British parents may face real difficulty, it suggests, recovering children abducted into an EU country: especially if the parent who has abducted them is a citizen of that state. The current seamless cooperation and highly integrated laws would have to be replaced by less certain international treaties like the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
The paper notes:
“The world is more interconnected than ever and families increasingly come from more than one country – there are approximately one million British citizens living in other EU member states and some three million EU citizens living in the UK. When things go wrong, families need to know that they will be able to resolve disputes in a clear, predictable way, without undue delay.”
The paper notes the “sophisticated and effective interaction, based on mutual trust between legal systems, that currently benefits both EU and UK business, families and individual litigants”, adding:
“The optimum outcome for both sides will be an agreement reflecting our close existing relationship.”
According to a report in The Guardian, government officials involved in Brexit negotiations asked for the speculation to be included. One explained what might happen if no agreement is reached:
“It would be much more difficult. There are a range of time measures. The fact is none of these systems are as effective or speedy as the current arrangements we have or the future ones we want to agree.”
Any deal reached would involve judges in EU countries holding some legal authority over abductions into the UK from an EU member state: an arrangement bound to be controversial amongst more enthusiastic ‘leave’ voters. It would also be at variance with statements made by Prime Minister Theresa May.
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