Hundreds of thousands of children left in limbo over their residency status after Brexit must not be used as bargaining chips in the negotiations, the children's commissioner for England has warned Brussels.
Many youngsters have told of their fears about their future in Britain after the country quits the European Union and they must swiftly be given certainty, Anne Longfield said.
In a letter to Michel Barnier (pictured), the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, she calls for citizens' rights to be separated out in the exit talks to allow children to be given peace of mind about their futures.
She wrote: "Many children I have spoken to over the last year have told me they are very worried about the uncertainty surrounding their status after Britain leaves the EU.
"I have been concerned that the rights and outcomes of children have so far been little more than a footnote in the debate about immigration and residence rights following Brexit.
"So I am pleased that both the British Government and the EU have now made substantial offers in regard to future residence rights.
"This will provide some reassurance to the hundreds of thousands of children with EU national parents that they will not be forced to leave the country they feel is their home.
"However, it is vital that agreement on this question is now reached."
Around 588,000 children in England are EU nationals, 260,000 estimated to be born in Britain, and they face complex rules over their status.
Siblings can have different nationalities depending on the year they were born and their parents' official status at the time.
In a statement, Ms Longfield said: "The EU said they wanted to make residence rights of EU nationals the first thing to be agreed during the negotiations.
"Yet their proposal makes residence rights dependent on European Court of Justice jurisdiction, something which won't be agreed until the end of the negotiations.
"If the EU genuinely want to resolve the question of residence rights of EU nationals, they need to separate out the two issues to enable a negotiation in good faith which can give certainty to the hundreds of thousands of children and their families left in limbo.
"Two more years of uncertainty feels like a long time to a child."
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