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The Effect of Brexit on British NGOs’ Access to EU Funding

The Effect of Brexit on British NGOs’ Access to EU Funding

1. Introduction

Background The United Kingdom (UK) has been a member of the European Union (EU) since 1973 and British NGOs have benefited from EU funding initiatives for decades. As a result of the complex and multifaceted nature of the EU, British NGOs have had access to an array of different funding opportunities from various different EU institutions and agencies, including but not limited to: the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European External Action Service and the European Development Fund. However, the landscape for British NGOs is about to change as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU; a process colloquially known as ‘Brexit’. The decision to leave was made in a referendum on the 23rd June 2016, when 51.9% of the UK voting population chose to leave the EU. According to a briefing by the UK House of Commons, this means that the UK will leave the EU by March 2019. This report seeks to provide an insight into the potential future state of play vis-à-vis British NGOs’ access to EU funding post-Brexit. It will explore the implications of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, as well as discussing potential strategies and alternative sources of funding available for British NGOs. The findings of this report will therefore be beneficial for policy and decision makers, both in the UK and abroad; by providing a research driven foundation for understanding how best to sustain and encourage the third sector. This in turn will ensure that civil society can continue to grow and develop, by building upon the rich tapestry of non-governmental organisations that already exist in the UK today.

1.1 Background

The European Union (EU) is currently the largest supranational donor in the world, providing over €15.7 billion a year to over 150 countries. Furthermore, the UK has traditionally been one of the largest recipients of EU aid. British NGOs have greatly benefited from EU funding. In 2016 alone, the UK’s Department for International Development reported that British NGOs received €217 million from European institutions. However, the political landscape is rapidly shifting. On 23rd June 2016, the UK held a referendum on whether to stay or leave the EU and 51.9% of the population voted to leave. The government triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on 29th March 2017, officially beginning the two-year process of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Consequently, there are many questions and uncertainties regarding the impact of Brexit on not only British NGOs, but also the nature and patterns of international development and aid in the UK, as well as the rest of the EU. This introduction goes on to explain the motivation behind the study and an outline of the aims of this research.

1.2 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of Brexit on British NGOs’ ability to access funding from the EU. In more specific terms, it aims to investigate how exactly the loss of EU membership will affect British NGOs that have historically relied on EU funding. The study will focus on NGOs working in a variety of different fields, including but not limited to environmental conservation, gender equality, and human rights. By examining each of these issues in turn and conducting case study analysis in each area, the study aims to produce a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the potential consequences of Brexit. In doing so, the study will account for the current lack of literature surrounding the subject. This is especially important due to the temporal nature of the issue. The research is clearly aligned with these objectives, as it places an emphasis on the use of qualitative data in order to gauge the current atmosphere of uncertainty and change and assess how NGOs and civil society organizations are responding to the current environment. By assessing this response in real time, the study aims to make its conclusions relevant and even implementable in practical terms, helping NGO workers and managers to plan strategically in the coming years. Also, to support this end goal, the aims of the research are made clear and seem to tie back to the identified literature gap. The purpose of the study is to put forth a set of realistic and practical advocacy strategies that NGOs could adopt in order to resist and ultimately mitigate the potential negative impacts of Brexit. Such strategies implicitly assume that the fundamental aim of the NGO sector is to resist regressive policy change and to maintain a sort of progressive status quo, as opposed to (for example) adapting to the new situation or exploiting new patterns of political and economic opportunity.

1.3 Scope and Limitations

This study will narrow its focus to examining the major impacts of Brexit on British NGOs’ ability to access EU funding. Due to time and word count constraints, this research will not examine in detail areas such as alternative funding opportunities, for example from national governments or private institutions, which have emerged as a result of Brexit. However, it will briefly touch upon these areas when exploring the implications of the major change to the systems that have been used previously. As will become apparent, the implications of Brexit for this area of policy are far-reaching and extensive, and further research would be needed in order to truly grasp the breadth of the consequences of such changes. Moreover, until Brexit has been fully implemented and Britain’s long-term relationship with the EU in terms of funding and collaborations has become clear, any conclusion drawn in this research will only be preliminary. Despite these limitations, this study hopes to capture a snapshot of the current state of play in this important policy area for NGOs, and to provide a basis for future research and discussion.

2. Understanding EU Funding for British NGOs

2.1 Overview of EU Funding Programs

2.2 Importance of EU Funding for British NGOs

2.3 Eligibility Criteria for EU Funding

3. Brexit and its Implications for British NGOs

3.1 Brexit and the Loss of EU Membership

3.2 Impact on British NGOs’ Access to EU Funding

3.3 Challenges and Opportunities Post-Brexit

4. Alternatives to EU Funding for British NGOs

4.1 National Funding Sources

4.2 International Funding Sources

4.3 Private Sector Partnerships

5. Strategies for British NGOs to Mitigate the Impact of Brexit

5.1 Diversification of Funding Sources

5.2 Strengthening Relationships with EU Partners

5.3 Advocacy and Lobbying Efforts

6. Case Studies: British NGOs’ Experiences Post-Brexit

6.1 Case Study 1: NGO A’s Transition and Adaptation

6.2 Case Study 2: NGO B’s Successful Fundraising Strategies

6.3 Case Study 3: NGO C’s Collaboration with International Donors

7. Recommendations for Policy and Decision Makers

7.1 Policy Changes to Support British NGOs

7.2 Strengthening Bilateral Agreements with the EU

7.3 Promoting Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

8. Conclusion

8.1 Summary of Findings

8.2 Implications for British NGOs

8.3 Future Outlook

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