International Relations: Birth Rates And Bother for Foreign Couples
Published on 31 July, 2020 | Katie Welton-Dillon
Britain’s status as one of the world’s major countries has long made it something of a magnet for foreign nationals.
Many, of course, have relocated to the UK for work purposes. According to figures released earlier this year by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were, in fact, more than 3.6 million non-UK citizens working here between October and December last year (https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/ukandnonukpeopleinthelabourmarket/february2020).
One might have thought that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union would have had an impact on men and women from across the Continent either taking up or retaining positions in the UK workforce.
However, the ONS revealed that the number of EU nationals working in Britain has actually increased by 71,000 since the ‘Brexit’ referendum, part of a doubling of EU citizens with jobs here over the course of the last decade.
There is another considerable proportion of people, however, who come to live in the UK for reasons other than employment, including setting up home with a partner.
More data from the ONS illustrates that there were more than 6.2 million non-UK nationals living here last year – up 110 per cent since 2004 (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration/bulletins/ukpopulationbycountryofbirthandnationality/2019).
Those figures do more than simply indicate how cosmopolitan Britain has become over the years.
As information on this country’s birth rates shows, the mix of different nationalities has an impact on the make-up of households (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/livebirths/bulletins/birthsummarytablesenglandandwales/2019).
For example, just over 10 per cent of live births in England and Wales last year (67,645) involved a mother who was an EU national. A further 18 per cent (116, 358) of children were born to women from outside both the UK and the EU.
That can be viewed very much as a positive development.
However, when these international households break apart, the consequences can be even more complicated than for couples made up solely of British citizens.
Much of the work which I and my colleagues undertake deals with applications made by parents who wish to return to their countries of origin.
That’s often because, having broken up with the person whom they’ve moved to the UK for, they have little by way of the kind of support network which their own families back home can provide.
Moving abroad with a child, however, is not a straightforward process. The courts must engage in a difficult balancing exercise – ensuring that the best interests of the children involved are served and, particularly, that their relationships with both parents can be maintained.
It isn’t that easy, for instance, for a parent to have the same degree of input in the life of child which has migrated to Australia as it is for one which has moved to France.
Judges also have to weigh up whether one parent’s application to relocate overseas is borne out of genuine need or is actually an attempt to thwart their former partner’s relationship with their son or daughter. After all, some jurisdictions have decision-making is incompatible with that of English courts, such as not entertaining the same concept of shared parenting.
I believe that it’s important for couples from different countries who are thinking of setting up home together and raise a family to be quite practical about what will happen – in a similar fashion to that which forms the basis of pre-nuptial and cohabitation agreements – should their relationships not last the course.
Many marriages and unmarried partnerships do break up. Putting contingencies in place may not seem terribly romantic to some but it can avoid some of the distress in such a situation.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that determining arrangements in failed international relationships is generally not something which is done quickly.
Depending on the degree of investigation required to ensure that both the needs of children and parents are met can take up to nine months in some cases.
Investing both time and thought, though, can help to ensure that relations remain cordial and supportive for a child rather than a source of cross-border conflict.