More than 80 organisations from across the UK have outlined their “grave concerns” about the possible consequences of no-deal Brexit, in a letter to Boris Johnson.
Recent announcements on the prorogation of Parliament prompted organisations to warn that the current strain on the sector, alongside a no-deal Brexit, could create a “perfect storm”.
The Prime Minister said a Queen's speech would take place on 14 October, to outline his "very exciting agenda".
In effect, this means MPs will have less time to pass laws to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
Charities and other civil society organisations are calling on the Prime Minister to urgently engage with what they see as a “regression” of rights. They warn of the “detrimental” impact a no-deal Brexit could have on the Good Friday Agreement, food standards, environmental and animal welfare regulations, the economy and trade.
Signatories include ACEVO, Disability Action, Friends of the Earth, FoodWorks, UNISON, The Poverty Alliance and the Women's Equality Network.
Open letter: 'A profound risk to the values civil society stands for'
The letter reads: “A growing body of evidence shows that a no-deal Brexit would be detrimental to civil society and the communities that we work with. The uncertainty, the predicted economic shock, the prospect of legal uncertainty as well as the regression in rights and standards present a profound risk to the values civil society stands for.
“Legislation to accommodate a no-deal scenario will be rushed through Parliament with little to no scrutiny from MPs and civil society. Neither is there enough time to put in place the necessary common frameworks to guarantee that devolution is respected.
“Civil society faces the same Brexit-related impacts and uncertainties as business, and yet we have not had adequate support, resources and engagement from the government. We urge you to better engage with civil society, including across the devolved nations,throughout the next stages of the Brexit process.
“Leaving the EU without an agreement will have drastic and wide-ranging implications for citizens and communities, who deserve to be heard.”
'There will not be enough time to replace the vital EU agencies that monitor equality and human rights'
Ruth Marks, chief executive of Wales Council for Voluntary Action, added: “The evidence suggests that a no-deal Brexit would negatively impact the UK’s economy and increase hardship on our society’s most vulnerable citizens. The voluntary sector plays an integral role in working with, supporting and empowering at risk people and families and a no-deal Brexit should not be allowed to undermine this work.
“Leaving the EU without an agreement will likely compound the sector’s already hard-pressed funding and staffing while increasing the need for its services, creating a perfect storm. It also raises a myriad of concerns for the sector from the wellbeing of farmers in rural Wales and regression of rights and standards to the legal uncertainty for UK and EU citizens living abroad.”
Ele Hicks, policy manager of Diverse Cymru, said: “Diverse Cymru are concerned that, in a no-deal scenario, there will not be enough time to replace the vital EU agencies that monitor Equality and Human Rights, and ensure compliance. Diverse Cymru feel that a no-deal Brexit will have a substantial negative impact on diverse communities in Wales.
“The impact of a no-deal Brexit on access to food and medicines is likely to be felt more keenly by diverse communities in Wales. Given the rise in discrimination faced in the wake of the Brexit vote we are concerned a no-deal Brexit will heighten social tensions, whilst putting vital safeguards at risk”.
'No-Deal Brexit represents a clear threat to the peace process in Northern Ireland'
Groups in Northern Ireland have also expressed their alarm at the impact leaving without a deal might have on the Good Friday Agreement.
Kevin Hanratty, director of the Human Rights Consortium in 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.”