Charles Whitmore, Brexit Civil Society Forum Coordinator, shares information for voluntary organisations on how to prepare for the end of the UK’s transition from the EU.
When the UK left the EU on 31 January, it entered into a transition period lasting until 11pm on 31 December 2020. During this time the UK’s political representation in the institutions of the EU ended, but most changes that may eventually impact on the third sector were delayed until 2021.
Clearly capacity to use this time to prepare has been severely constrained by Covid-19 but with only weeks left until changes start to kick in, organisations may now want to start thinking through some of the implications, both in the run up the end of 2020 but also beyond.
We have published an update to our resources to help third sector organisations in Wales consider some of these challenges and opportunities.
DEAL OR NO DEAL?
At the time of writing an outcome to this question is expected very soon, but the difference between the two scenarios is not as large as it was in early 2020. No deal may result in a sharper increase in the cost of some products which would disproportionately impact vulnerable groups and talks with the EU around issues expected to go beyond 2020, like participation in EU programmes and security cooperation, could become more challenging. It is also possible that answers to some tangential questions like whether an adequacy decision on data protection is given may be less forthcoming.
However broadly speaking, preparations will be important and relevant regardless of the outcome of the negotiations given that any deal is expected to be thin. While potentially beneficial to do so, organisations may not need to constrain themselves to exploring these issues in the run up to 31 December 2020 – many steps will likely still prove useful even after the transition ends.
WHAT CAN ORGANISATIONS DO TO PREPARE?
There are some more actionable questions, for example:
- Is your organisation ready from a data protection standpoint if the EU doesn’t provide an adequacy decision by the end of transition (this is considered likely)?
- Have you put in place systems to signpost EU citizens amongst staff and service users for support with the EU Settlement Scheme?
- Free movement is ending, and the UK’s new post Brexit points-based immigration system is due to come into force. Employers may want to familiarise themselves with this and the rules relevant for international staff travel if necessary.
- There are some minor changes to procurement as the UK will no longer be using the OJEU/TED – instead a new Find a Tender system is being introduced by the UK Government. Requirement related to Sell2Wales are remaining the same however.
There are also medium and longer-term changes to consider.
- Access to EU funding is ending and UK based organisations will not be able to access the 2021-2027 funding round – if this doesn’t impact your organisation, will it impact your members? If you provide frontline services to vulnerable groups, will it impact on any services they are reliant upon? The UK Government is designing the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to replace EU funding, which may introduce new funding opportunities – organisations will want to follow these developments closely.
- Brexit has resulted in a number of new institutional bodies being implemented: including the Office for Environmental Protection, the Independent Monitoring Authority for Citizens’ Rights, the Trade Remedies Authority and the Office for the Internal Market. These will play key roles in scrutinising activities in the post-Brexit landscape and organisations may want to invest some time in understanding and surveying their role.
- There are also several developments on the horizon which are clearly framed in a post-Brexit context, including reviews of the Human Rights Act and of Judicial Review. These may well represent key opportunities for organisations to have an input into shaping the post-transition landscape.
The updated guide provides further resources on these questions and others – it is available for download here. The Brexit Forum will also be organising webinars in early 2021 to explore the impact of any deal secured and what this means for the sector.