UK and Irish Voluntary and Community Sector Position Statement on Brexit Negotiations

16 Jun 2017 Geoff Nuttall    Last updated: 21 Jun 2017

With Brexit negotiations set to begin soon, NICVA and our sister voluntary and community sector umbrella bodies across the UK and Ireland, have developed the following common UK/Irish position statement on what needs to be prioritised. 

Implementing the UK’s decision to leave the European Union: a common position statement

Introduction

The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and The Wheel (Ireland) collectively represent over 15,200 member voluntary and community organisations, working to address a wide range of social, economic and environmental needs. 

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union following the 2016 referendum will have far-reaching implications for the people of the UK and of its nearest neighbours and will touch all aspects of public life, including a great number of the wide-ranging issues in which voluntary and community organisations are involved. The five organisations above are therefore keen to ensure that the negotiations on Brexit are informed by a full understanding of the implications which different decisions could have on issues in which the voluntary and community sector is closely involved and has valuable insights. 

This position paper sets out a number of common principles and specific policy priorities which we believe need to be taken fully account in the negotiations.

Common Principles

  • Brexit should not lead to important human rights safeguards or consumer and environmental protections being weakened
  • the process should be as transparent as possible and seek to involve civil society organisations
  • it is vitally important to ensure that, despite Brexit, collaboration between people and organisations in the UK and other countries in Europe for public benefit (for example joint medical research, co-operation on security, protection of vulnerable groups, educational exchanges) is allowed and encouraged to continue through suitable mechanisms

Key Policy Recommendations

  • the UK should seek continued access post-Brexit to EU transnational funding programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Interreg as vital vehicles for maximising the public benefit of transnational/Europe-wide activities such as medical research. Such continued access would enable investment by UK voluntary and community organisations to lever in substantial additional international funding and avoid unnecessary and unproductive competition between organisations, for example between Irish organisations and UK-based organisations seeking to set up additional presence in Ireland to secure continued eligibility and access.
  • any changes to the legislation adopted into UK law under the Great Repeal Act should be scrutinised UK Parliament and the devolved Parliaments/Assemblies, so we can all be confident that the process is working well.
  • there should be a UK-wide process, with full participation across the devolved nations, reviewing the financial and policy implications of the withdrawal, post 2020, of current levels and types of Structural Funds support across the UK and an equally inclusive process of assessing need and designing appropriate local, regional and devolved national domestic UK social, economic and environmental funding programmes.
  • the full implications of different forms of Brexit for citizen’s rights must be fully considered and (often unintended) negative social and economic impacts avoided. EEA citizens currently residing in the UK should be given the right to stay; and future immigration policy must ensure that vital public services, particularly in the health and care sector, continue to be able to attract the skilled staff they need.
  • Brexit should not undermine the long-standing Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland, whose removal would have profound implications for the lives of thousands of UK and Irish citizens, as well as potentially discriminatory impacts on non-Irish EU citizens living in Ireland.  Additionally, the avoidance of a hard trade border between Northern Ireland/Ireland is crucial to maintaining peace and social cohesion.

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