Third sector organisations have today (Weds, 24 October 2018) presented their Brexit asks to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mark Drakeford AM, drawing on findings from the Wales Civil Society Forum on Brexit (the Forum). The Forum is a joint initiative set up in summer 2018 between Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre (WGC) to help the third sector better engage with, and influence, the Brexit debate.
A range of concerns have emerged during a series of Forum meetings, including calls for decision makers to respect devolution during the Brexit process and for all post-Brexit legislation to be robustly scrutinised. Third sector organisations’ specific concerns largely fall into four distinct areas: funding; the environment and animal welfare; equality and human rights; and immigration.
The Forum, which has links with the UK-wide Brexit Civil Society Alliance and is funded by The Legal Education Foundation has published a comprehensive position statement on its website, detailing:
· fears that a Shared Prosperity Fund will not match the £2.1bn in EU Structural Funds, will relegate tackling poverty and social exclusion, and fail to be shaped and delivered by the third, private and public sectors, including frontline staff
· calls for current environmental and animal welfares standards to remain intact and not be compromised or diluted in the face of new trade deals or when devising the replacement of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), and that the new environmental watchdog unambiguously respects devolved legislation
· highlights the need for the Welsh Government to limit hate crime and protect our economic and social rights by ensuring the principles of the EU Charter are protected and progressed, in all areas of life, including in trade negotiations and in court
· calls for all new immigration policies, including roll out of the EU Settlement Scheme, ensure vital services, like those undertaken by the care sector, are adequately resourced and do not compromise social cohesion nor the rights of EU citizens and migrant communities in Wales.
In response, Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said: “The third sector in Wales is vibrant and diverse, including organisations which provide services in every sphere of life in Wales.
“Whatever the form Brexit takes, it will cause disruption to Wales. That is why we, as a responsible government, will continue to plan for all possible outcomes. The third sector must also think carefully about how it responds to Brexit while continuing to deliver vital services to our communities.
“I welcome the Forum’s position paper as it will help the third sector consider the implications in a number of key areas, such as human rights and equality, immigration, EU citizenship and the environment and animal welfare.”
Over 40 third sector organisations, including RSPB, Focus on Labour Exploitation, and Children in Wales, have participated in the Forum to date, with the next meeting taking place on 5 December 2018. All third sector organisations in Wales are welcome to participate, or can learn more about the Forum and the Brexit timeline by visiting the brand-new website at: www.brexitforumwales.org
According to Professors Jo Hunt and Dan Wincott of WGC: “Brexit has already changed the landscape of the third sector and further transformation is inevitable. Supported by The Legal Education Foundation, the Forum provides a welcome opportunity for academics at Cardiff University and beyond to work with the third sector on the issues raised by Brexit.
“Over a relatively short period, the Forum has been able to identify third sector organisations’ key themes and concerns. The charity and voluntary sector accounts for 10% of employment in Wales, and with £2.1bn worth of EU Structural Funds soon to disappear or be replaced, it is important to gather their views and understand what the sector needs to survive and thrive after Brexit.”
Anna Nicholl, WCVA’s Director of Strategy and Development, said: “Unsurprisingly, there are real concerns about funding, and how the replacement funding, in the form of the Shared Prosperity Fund, will be shaped and delivered. A number of organisations and services in Wales will be deeply affected – or even eradicated – without replacement funding.
“A bigger concern, however, is that new post-Brexit trade agreements will weaken rather than strengthen environmental and animal welfare protections – similarly so for hard fought workers’ rights. With charities, social enterprises and other third sector organisations playing an essential role in sustaining Welsh society, including the provision of vital, front-line services, Welsh Government and the UK Government need to take note.”