Charity leaders will campaign for the UK to retain its membership of the European Union after the Prime Minister promised an ‘in-out’ referendum.
David Cameron said this morning that he would aim to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU, before holding a referendum if the Conservatives win the next election.
The Euclid Network, a European community of civil society leaders, and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations both said that British charities would have a brighter future if the country were to remain within the EU.
But the NCVO added that reform was needed to open up European grants to smaller charities.
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said the UK should retain EU membership because it was a crucial channel through which voluntary sector organisations could influence debates about global changes.
"A key issue for charities, for example, is that as a consequence of inflexible EU rules European structural funds are very hard for smaller charities to access," he said. "We will be contributing to the government’s review of EU powers and calling for greater transparency and accountability in Europe. To my mind, however, the answer is unquestionably reform of Europe, not walking away from it."
Filippo Addarii, executive director at the Euclid Network, said that civil society in the UK had gained more global influence from being in the EU. "It's time for everybody to show the value of UK membership of the EU," he said.
Other advantages, he said, included charities being able to pool aid and champion human rights, campaign on climate change and strengthen democracy.
Cameron’s comments came in a long-awaited speech in which he noted the public’s resentment of the EU’s "interference in our national life by what they see as unnecessary rules and regulation".
He said he would attempt to build "a relationship with the single market at its heart" but did not specify which powers he would like the UK to reclaim.