Charities feel removed from the Brexit process, says civil society alliance

Malene Bratlie, coordinator of the Brexit Civil Society Alliance, tells an event in parliament that many charities feel their views are being ignored

(Photograph: Sinonimas/Getty Images)
(Photograph: Sinonimas/Getty Images)

Charities feel "far removed" from the Brexit process, and strategic decisions and planning in the voluntary sector are being affected by the lack of clarity from government, an event in parliament organised by the Brexit Civil Society Alliance has heard.

Speaking at the event last night, Malene Bratlie, coordinator of the alliance, said charities were increasingly concerned about the uncertainty of Brexit and many felt their views on the issue were being ignored.

"For the past 18 months we have been up and down the country talking to local civil society groups, and the really clear message from places like Cornwall, Newcastle and Cumbria is how far removed they feel from the Brexit process," she said.

"Those areas all face very different impacts, but what they are all saying is that Brexit is something that is being done to us, not something they can shape."

Bratlie said that the complexity and the politics of Brexit had made it incredibly difficult for a lot of charities to engage in the process in any meaningful way.

"There has been a lot of focus on certainty for business, but civil society also needs certainty to be able to plan for the future," she said.

"Whether that is the prospect of a hard border, the loss of EU funding or weaker rights, we need to know what is going to happen down the line."

Charles Whitmore, coordinator of the Wales Civil Society Forum on Brexit, said there were "very significant barriers" for small and medium-sized charities in devolved nations such as Wales to engage in the Brexit process.

Whitmore said there was a sense of "frustration and anxiety" about the lack of information on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU funding to the charity sector, and the lack of a consultation on how it will operate.

"Organisations tell us that Brexit is not something that is yet to happen, but something that is happening for them on a day-to-day basis," he said.

"It is affecting strategic decisions, it is affecting project planning and it is affecting how organisations engage with devolved and central government departments.

"They tell us they can feel the capacity draining within government and are struggling to gain traction where they used to have no issues."

Whitmore said that Welsh charities were "deeply, deeply concerned" at the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

"The sector wants and needs a voice in this process," he said. "The discussion must start about the future and what the UK will look like beyond Brexit."

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