NICVA Update on EU Referendum.
In a letter to our members before the EU referendum NICVA CEO Seamus McAleavey said, “As charities we must always act in the best interest of the people, families, communities and causes we represent. On this basis the NICVA Executive Committee took the decision to support the campaign for the UK to REMAIN in the European Union. This is because we believe it is in the best interests of the lives and livelihoods of people here in Northern Ireland.”
We still believe that is the case.
In the days following the referendum many voluntary and community organisations voiced their genuine concerns about what lies ahead. We knew that leaving the European Union would be a leap into the unknown but the fact that people who promoted the Leave campaigning appear to have no plans for what happens next is far from reassuring.
As a sector we must turn our attention to dealing with the reality of the decision to Leave.
As the UK begins to develop its negotiating position the Northern Ireland Executive has to make its voice heard in that process. The Executive also has to negotiate with the Treasury on the financial losses of EU Structural Funds and the promises on public expenditure made by the Leave campaign.
In NICVA we have begun formulating our sector’s contribution to that plan. We have complied a list of the main issues we need to ensure are on the agenda in any upcoming negotiations and will be prioritising current EU funding streams – ESF, PEACE IV, ERDF and the Rural Development Programme. You can read a statement from SEPUB about their funding here. We have begun to explore how EU guidance on procurement and social clauses will be effected. Important EU directives on sustainability and environmental protection will also need attention as will programmes associated with the free movement of people like ERASMUS. Many of you will be members of pan-European networks and concerned about your future participation. We know this is just the tip of the iceberg and would welcome hearing directly from any NICVA member about your own concerns.
We must also work hard together to eliminate any idea that the referendum results empower or justify racism and hate crimes. As organisations and as people who work and volunteer in our sector we must hold ourselves to the very highest levels of accountability on this issue. It is incumbent on us to challenge hate and promote the positive contribution of people who have chosen to make a home for themselves and their families in Northern Ireland.
Our commitment to ensuring our sector’s concerns are heard is already underway. This morning (Friday, 1 July 2016) NICVA, Business organisations and Trade Unions met with the Finance Minister. We stressed the need for engagement with civic society in any upcoming negotiations and received his assurances that VCSE sector will be included. It is planned that this group will meet monthly with the Minister. NICVA is meeting with other key Executive Ministers in the coming days including the Minister for Communities and we have requested a meeting with the First and deputy First Ministers.
Negotiating the best possible deal for NI will be a huge test for our new Executive.
As a sector we will not be found wanting when it comes to playing our part.