The Department for International Development will lobby the European Commission to allow UK development charities to continue to receive funding after Brexit, the head of its policy and exit group has said.
Chris Carter, who is also deputy head of DfID’s Europe department, made the comments at a Funding for Development conference, held by the international development umbrella body Bond, in central London yesterday.
He described the rules that disqualified organisations based in countries outside the EU or the European Economic Area from being eligible for some EU funding schemes as "unfair", and vowed to push the European Commission to change them.
This rule will apply to UK development organisations after Brexit, regardless of whether the UK leaves with a deal or without one, unless an exemption is specifically agreed in a withdrawal deal.
But Carter said that the UK government did not accept the rule and was "negotiating very hard to change" it.
"My job and that of others in DfID will be negotiating the future relationship – and a lot of money is at stake," he said.
"And our number-one frame of mind is that UK organisations will continue to received funding from the EU. They will change their rules.
"If they do not change their rules, they will not get a relationship with DfID. It’s very important to understand that."
He told delegates that they should not focus on lobbying government over post-Brexit funding.
Instead, he said: "You should be focusing on lobbying the commission to change its rules, which are unfair."
He said UK aid organisations offered expertise in delivering impact and successful programmes that would be useful to European partners.
Dominic Brain, head of programme innovation and funding at Christian Aid, who was also on the panel, said he thought DfID’s approach was "novel" and it was good to hear that DfID was optimistic.
But he added: "UK NGOs aren’t exactly that high up in the pecking order of the UK negotiations with Brussels."
And while he acknowledged there was some interest in UK organisations’ expertise, "in the great scheme of things, this is not a big issue on the table and we are hardly in the strongest position to lobby".
Ultimately, Brain said, any such deal was unlikely to happen soon and he did not think the sector could rely on that eventuality happening.
And it was likely, he said, that the beneficiaries of affected aid programmes would feel the impact of any gaps in funding.
DfID has set up an assurance fund that will cover the costs of any European international development funding that is terminated in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Affected organisations will need to notify DfID before the UK leaves the EU. More information can be found here.