'No-Deal' Brexit Won't Take EU Funding From British Charities, Says UK Government
"Humanitarian aid should never have become a Brexit negotiating tool."
By Umberto Bacchi
LONDON, Aug 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - British charities that receive European Union (EU) funding will not lose out if the country crashes out of the bloc without a deal, the government said on Thursday, after aid groups raised fears their work could suffer.
The government said it would underwrite new programmes led by British aid and development organisations and funded by the EU's humanitarian agency, which provides them with about €300 million ($343 million) a year, industry figures show.
"It is in neither the EU's nor the UK's interest that organisations which are best-placed are prevented from delivering our programmes," Britain's aid minister Penny Mordaunt said in a statement.
"I will do all that I can to ensure that British aid organisations continue to play a leading role in helping some of the world's most disadvantaged people."
Britain is due to leave the EU in March after voting to do so in a 2016 referendum. But the government has not yet reached a deal on the terms of the split, and there is growing concern it will be unable to do so before the deadline.
The EU currently requires British aid organisations to prove when they apply for funds that they would be able to continue funding their projects in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government said.
"The vast majority of organisations are unable to make such a financial commitment up front, and so are being discouraged from applying," it said in one of a series of government notices on the potential fall-out from such a scenario.
The commitment provided much needed reassurance to British charities, said Claire Godfrey, head of policy at Bond, a network of agencies working in overseas development.
"Humanitarian aid should never have become a Brexit negotiating tool," she said.
"We sadly risk hindering joint global development and aid efforts unless people stop playing politics with the lives of those facing dire poverty, insecurity and climate change."
Barnaby Willitts-King, a research fellow at the London-based Overseas Development Institute, said the government had removed some of the uncertainty but its commitment didn't clear everything up.
"NGOs regularly subcontract activities to non-UK-based partners, often local NGOs who can deliver on the ground, whose programmes would not be eligible for this funding provision," he said.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)