What a shambles. The government has released another tranche of papers on what to expect if there is no deal, but the shape of a final outcome is still no clearer. Yet it’s the biggest and most significant event in decades. Undoing almost 50 years of EU membership will affect almost every aspect of our lives: jobs, health, working conditions, manufacturing, distribution, food, energy, finance, services, consumer rights, research, environment, telecommunications, trade, security, travel and so on. Even data roaming costs for mobile phones are covered by European law. So much for the “leaving deal” being “one of the easiest in human history” to negotiate.
Yet while the mostly male politicians argue it out, the voice of the vulnerable, as championed by the voluntary sector, goes unheard. Of course it may be that the media just isn’t interested in what charity spokespeople have to say (Let’s face it, some of the recent coverage on charities has been pretty negative). But I don’t think that as a sector we have made enough noise over Brexit. Forgive me if I’m wrong, and apologies to those concerned, but I certainly don’t recall any of the sector’s great and good speaking out on Brexit.
Yes, there have been some newspaper and research articles on the likely impact of Brexit on the voluntary sector. And taken together, they suggest difficult times ahead, with reports that UK charities could lose £258m of EU funding, lose a significant proportion of their workforce, and see far reaching consequences for beneficiaries’ rights as we move away from EU laws and enforcement. Indeed, more recently, the Charity Finance Group, who have previously suggested some potential benefits of leaving the single market in terms of public procurement and VAT rules, said that as things stand, Brexit will be bad for both charities and their beneficiaries.
But there is growing evidence that as the leave date draws nearer, there is a shift in opinion on Brexit. At the same time, there is growing support for a second referendum, with members of Britain’s largest trade unions being the latest to support the call.
The fact remains that no terms were agreed before the 2016 referendum. People took a decision on the country’s entire future without reading the small print.
So surely an informed decision, as advocated by the People’s Vote, is now required. What’s more, given that after two years the politicians still can’t agree what the deal should look like, putting options back to the people makes good sense.
Shouldn’t the voluntary sector be making such calls for a final say too?