Civil society organisations express grave concerns about no-deal Brexit

By agency reporter
August 31, 2019

Following recent announcements on the prorogation of Parliament, over 85 organisations from across the UK have called on the Prime Minister in an open letter to urgently engage with their “grave concerns” about the impact that leaving the European Union without a deal will have on civil society.

Signatories urge better engagement and support from Government as their concerns about the impacts of no-deal continue to be ignored amid turbulent political movements in Westminster.

They warn of the dangers that rushing through legislation, in the now drastically reduced parliamentary calendar, will have on the ability of MPs and civil society to fully engage and scrutinise.

Coming together from across the devolved nations, as well as from a breadth of English regions, the signatories of the letter, which include organisations working nationally and those delivering front-line services, are unified in their concerns. This includes the uncertainty they are facing while no agreement has been finalised, the threat to communities in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement presented by no-deal, legal uncertainty and a regression of rights and standards.

Civil society groups in Northern Ireland continue to express alarm at the impact leaving without a deal would have on the Good Friday Agreement. Kevin Hanratty, Director of the Human Rights Consortium in Belfast, Northern Ireland said: “A No-Deal Brexit represents a clear threat to the peace process in Northern Ireland. No-deal means a hard border not just for trade and commerce but for the vital levels of North/South cooperation and regulatory alignment on both sides of the border that were intrinsic to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

"For people on the ground, that means deep uncertainty and anxiety. Brexit already meant that we would be regressing in the levels of rights and protections currently available to individuals in Northern Ireland as members of the EU. A no-deal Brexit goes even further and removes even the limited measures planned to offset those disruptions and loss of rights. It’s the equivalent of slapping people in the face and then forcing them to turn the other cheek”

In the event of no-deal, there would also be a higher risk to current animal welfare, food, environmental equality standards and human rights. Time is running out to replace the EU agencies which enforce regulations at present. With no official monitoring, standards will be weakened or could fall away entirely with very little scrutiny by Parliament.

Emma Gibson, Director of Campaigning Impact at Friends of the Earth said: “High standards keep us and our environment safe. It’s appalling to see how willing the government is to trade away rules that have improved animal welfare, made our water cleaner and prevented unsafe chemicals from hitting the shelves in pursuit of quick and dirty trade deals. Leave or remain, no one voted for this bargain basement Brexit.

“We’re facing a climate emergency and need all hands on deck to fix it. But no-deal will leave the UK without a proper environmental watchdog to make the government enforce the laws we already have, and promises years of upheaval and distraction at the very moment the UK should be focusing all our attention on more ambitious action to hit net zero.”

Speaking about the uncertainty about what a no-deal exit means for vulnerable communities, director, Anne Bonner, of the Riverside Community Health Project based in Newcastle said: “Our organisation supports vulnerable families who have moved here from EU countries; many of them are exploited in the workplace and live in very poorly maintained private rented accommodation and are subject to racism. I worry about what will happen in the confusion that happens around Brexit when there is general uncertainty about who is entitled to what in our community when many people are struggling to make ends meet”

The letter has been facilitated by the Brexit Civil Society Alliance, a UK wide alliance of charities, voluntary and campaigning organisations, with support from its sister Brexit Civil Society Projects in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Alliance does not take a position on what direction Brexit should take but seeks to raise concerns on behalf of its members and work to ensure that the Brexit process delivers on its three principles: open and accountable law making; a high standards UK; and no governance gap after Brexit.

* Read the open letter here

* Brexit Civil Society Alliance https://www.brexitcivilsocietyalliance.org/

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