The EU referendum and the third sector in Wales

Following the result of the EU referendum, the third sector European team (3-SET) hosted a webinar 'Implications for the Voluntary Sector in Wales'. It was an interactive session which summarised some of the key outcomes to date and focused on the recent changes in both UK and Welsh politics, the social implications and funding landscape. During the webinar, there was a Q&A session for which viewers were invited to submit their questions and concerns. The questions asked have formed the base of an ever evolving FAQ section which can be seen below. The webinar was the first step in what will be an ongoing dialogue with the sector as we move through the coming months and years. To view the webinar and listen to the topics and questions discussed, please click the link below.

https://wcva.adobeconnect.com/_a1155017186/p3p039gpph3/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal

EU webinar screenshot

 

For any further questions you may have surrounding the EU referendum, you are welcome to email the 3-SET team, 3set@wcva.org.uk or call WCVA helpdesk on 0800 2888 329

 

Are there still opportunities for third sector organisations to get involved with European Funding?

Yes, there are still opportunities and the UK Treasury has underwritten the Programmes through to 2020. It's important that we spend the money that's still available to us because that's going to strengthen our argument for any future funding that may or may not come to Wales post Brexit. WCVA is continuing to deliver the Active Inclusion Fund which is a great way for smaller third sector organisations to access European funding.


All EU laws will be subsumed into UK laws. Is this correct at this stage?

Yes, at this stage. The Great Repeal Bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 on the day we leave the EU and will convert EU law as it applies in the UK into domestic law. However, corrections will need to be made where there is reference to EU institutions. To solve this problem, the Bill contains delegated powers which will allow ministers to change these laws without going through Parliament.  

As a sector we need to make sure we are aware of any proposed changes. For example, some environmental groups are concerned about the potential loss of gains acquired through our EU membership. Please keep us informed of any proposed changes which affect your area of specialism as they emerge. There may be some real opportunity for lobbying in the future.


Will Active Inclusion continue to 2020?

WCVA is currently in discussions with WEFO, they are all favourable. We are looking to seek to extend Active Inclusion through to March 2020.


The 2020 period is end of funded schemes but will N+2 mean potential spend to 2022?

It will depend on the terms of our exit from the EU. We anticipate that the next 18 months - 2 years will be spent negotiating the terms of exit and then there will be a transition period, probably of between 5 and 7 years (because Europe tends to work in 7-year periods). Structural Funds will most probably be caught up in this period of transition and this will probably allow continued spending through to 2022.


Presumably any changes to laws will be subject to normal consultation protocols?

The Great Repeal Billcontains delegated powers which will allow ministers to make legislative changes without going through Parliament.  Opposition parties are quite concerned that it allows UK Government to make changes without a full consultation. It is something the sector needs to watch.


Is there anything you would recommend organisations do to help prepare for Brexit?

Organisations need to have an awareness of some of the areas Brexit will impact upon, for example environmental issues and equalities. Board members and staff should keep abreast of any changes, or proposed changes and WCVA can help facilitate this information exchange. Therefore, please get in touch if there is something that you think we may be able to help with.

If you are involved with European funding get on, deliver and spend the money to strengthen the case. One of the things that will certainly happen in the next 6 months is a consultation by Welsh Government on what happens post Brexit in relation to regional funds. WCVA is calling for Welsh Government to have an open dialogue to establish what people want because one of the things that the referendum has shown is the disconnect between communities, governments and politicians so let's have that discussion.


Do you think it would be good if organisations that have a risk register put Brexit on it as a standing item?

Yes, especially if your organisation is currently in receipt of European funding.

Brexit should also be kept as a regular item on all Board and Trustees meetings.


How will the Welsh Government be able to feed into the process of deciding which UK laws are kept once EU law has been transposed into British legislation?

The assumption is that any major changes in law will have to go through the normal processes - the House of Commons etc. Therefore, Welsh Government will be able to feed in through MPs and the Secretary of State for Wales.


We have been experiencing lengthy delay in getting approval for RCDF funding (under the RDP), do you know if this has been affected by Brexit, or are the delays due to something else?

The delays are most probably due to something else. They may be due to the Commission's reluctance to discuss changes within the programme, or it may simply be because they are working their way more slowly through the programme. RDP was launched slightly behind the Structural Funds and therefore may still be catching up.


Finance is crucial but we need to be aware of the risk of reverse migration and the impact of a smaller labour force in Wales particularly in Care and Health Sector. Is anyone looking specifically at this issue?

Not that we're currently aware of. One of the biggest negatives around Brexit and migration was the lack of proper debate around this subject.

Interestingly Theresa May is already talking about a transitional period of movement of labour. The language is beginning to shift from hard edge 'cutting the ties in 2 years' time' to a much more consolatory transitional period. Probably one of the first things the Commission and UK Government want to resolve is the status of EU nationals living in the UK and British citizens living in other countries. The sector needs to keep up to date with developments in this area and lobby UK Government if required.


Has the fall in the value of the pound led to additional funding for EU funding in Wales?

Yes. All the European programmes are in euros and then they get converted to pounds. Therefore, a fall in the pound means that the exchange rate is better so we actually have more euros to spend.


What is likely to happen to the Interreg programmes?

There is already talk that the UK Government will invest in some of the wider transnational programmes. Interreg may be something they want to invest in, particularly the Ireland Wales programme to soften some of the activity that may occur in relation to the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland border.

The universities are lobbying for continued access to Horizon 2020 and, from what we understand, European institutions do not want to lose UK universities from this programme. 


Do you think that Brexit will bring opportunities for the sector?

It is difficult to say but there are always opportunities, for example VAT for charities. At the moment VAT law is extremely confusing and therefore there may be opportunities to simplify it.

A discussion about regional policy is important. The sector needs to make the case for continued access to funding.


How can the third sector feed into the post Brexit era regarding funding that will be retained in the UK? How can we ensure that funding that may have a 'community' tag coming from Westminster then being devolved into general WG funding and never hit the original purpose?

There is still a debate to be had about what happens about repatriated funds and what they will be. Welsh Government are pushing for them to control it. There are two camps; one is that it comes back to Wales and Welsh Government will control it or the second camp is that it stays as a UK regional programme and moneys are allocated at regional level. It might depend on how the relationship between the devolved states and the UK Government emerges. It could be that we end  up with a federal state whereby in order to avoid Scotland leaving the Union, we have a federal state - similar to what Europe has but instead of 27 members we have 4 -  and that way Westminster could control the programme. This is part of the discussion we need to have about the way we need to lobby and work hard to do that. What we are not sure about is what these proposals are and we need to be influencing those proposals.


What do you think projects can do to make sure we can demonstrate the need for future funding?

Deliver, spend the money wisely and demonstrate the value of third sector input. We must publicise the positive impact European funding has made on individuals lives. Organisations should get involved in local conversations and discussions to establish what [they] are proposing. We need to lobby hard to make sure that we don't lose out.


What is likely to happen to our access to the LIFE programme?

This is going to be tied up in the discussions about whether or not the UK, post Brexit, puts money into these sorts of programmes. There is certainly an understanding that people in UK Government want to keep access to some of these programmes and there seems to be a willingness to actually invest in them. It may happen as part of the trade-off UK Government does in order to get trade agreements and the things that they want.


Any idea whether the Brexit process will affect cases at the European Court of Justice, particularly over the next two years? E.g. are they likely to fast-track a live case to get resolution before 2019?

The UK government has said the ECJ will no longer have jurisdiction over the UK after Brexit. However, its historical rulings will carry the same weight as those of the British Supreme Court, meaning they will remain part of British law until there is an appetite to change them.

Any post Brexit funding coming back into Wales should be distributed across the whole of the country and not have the East/West divide -- there has been too much segregation and lack of shared knowledge on many programmes.

The East/West divide was artificially designed in order to allow Wales to qualify for Objective 1 in 2000. The Commission sees the East/West divide as 2 economically cohesive districts, although this is not the case. Moving forward, new regional policy should be an all Wales policy. Welsh Government is already talking about developing an all Wales employability strategy and therefore the East/West divide will most probably be abandoned once we leave the EU.


EU State Aid vs. WTO: what's the best for the 3rd sector?

Probably the WTO conditions will put the UK in a totally different area for a few years which may be detrimental to the economy.

If we want trade deals, we will most probably have to accept state aid in some form.


Re. large public sector contracts and procurement what do you think will happen to OJEU once UK leaves EU?

This will most probably depend on the trade agreement we strike with the EU. If we want continued trade at the level that we currently have, no restrictions on exports and imports, then we will have to have some sort of compliance with State aid, OJEU etc.


Will links with EU voluntary sector networks continue?

Yes, if we wish to. It's not in the interest of institutions outside of the Commission i.e. third sector organisations or universities or colleges to break links with any UK establishments. If, as part of negotiations, we agree to fund certain transnational programmes post Brexit, these links will remain.

 

 

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