Soap Box: It's up to charities to maintain our links with Europe

The sector needs to ensure that communities and beneficiaries remain protected and strengthened in the wake of Brexit, argues Crispin Truman

Crispin Truman
Crispin Truman

Whatever our views on the EU and Brexit, civil society and charities need to build bridges with Europe. Much of the talk is about economics and trade, so somebody needs to pay attention to the equally valuable, but more fragile, cultural, social and intellectual relationships with our neighbours to which our membership of the EU has brought attention and resources for 40 years. Few would argue that collaboration, shared experience and mutual learning should not continue, but who is going to make sure they do?

It falls to us - charities and community organisations - to ensure that communities and beneficiaries remain protected and strengthened, not only within national boundaries, but also across them. A visit to any European country soon reveals how much we share. Our geography and history are inextricably intertwined. The challenges we now face and the solutions to which we aspire are often the same.

I saw this recently when I was involved in setting up a European network to save our shared heritage. Visiting historic sites in other countries, I learned how, for hundreds of years, we have traded skills and materials, designed and built each others' buildings and enjoyed the same art and architecture. This is enlightened self-interest. Collaboration within European civil society makes for a better, healthier and safer world, and brings business to charities in need of income.

My charity, for example, has developed a profitable international consultancy out of our more altruistic network-building. I'll be doing all I can to protect that and the other positives of working across borders.

Crispin Truman is chief executive of the Churches Conservation Trust

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