UK charities receive over £200m from European Commission development fund

21 Feb 2019 News

Development charities in the UK could lose access to more than £200m of EU funding in the event of a no-deal Brexit, analysis by Civil Society News suggests.

The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the global development arm of the European Commission, awarded one hundred and twenty-two contracts to UK charities worth a total of over £225m in 2017, the last year for which full data is available.  

Oxfam, the International Medical Corps UK and International Rescue Committee UK are among the charities which each currently receive tens of millions of pounds through these contracts, to conduct humanitarian work with some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

However, the funding is only available to organisations with headquarters in an EU country. The director general of ECHO, Monique Pariat, last month confirmed to the development news website Devex that charities will lose existing contracts if Britain leaves the EU next month without reaching a deal.

In 2018 the Department for International Development (DfID) said it would intervene to cover the cost of ECHO contracts if the EU withdrew its funding. However, the department also told Civil Society News that it would not know the budget needed to meet this commitment until Britain leaves the EU at the end of March.

The British Red Cross, which has received ECHO funding for its work in Kenya, confirmed that it was stepping-up its preparations for work after Brexit.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “Teams across the organisation have been preparing for UK leaving the European Union, assessing the likely impact this could have on our staff and volunteers, the people we support through our different service lines and the fundraising and policy environment.”

A 2017 research report into the potential impact of Brexit by Bond, the umbrella body for international development organisations, recognised that there were “inevitably concerns” about funding after Britain leaves the EU. 

UK charities “which are some of the largest recipients of ECHO funding, find themselves in an unclear position resulting from the uncertainties of Brexit,” the report said. 

It added that international development charities in some non-EU states, like Switzerland and Macedonia, have been able to access ECHO contracts, but that this funding mechanism was “not well tested and likely to be subject to political negotiation.” 

Earlier this month it was announced that Swiss charities would lose their access to ECHO funding, in a sign that UK charities may meet the same fate even if the government agrees a withdrawal deal with the EU. 

A spokesperson from DFID said: “International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has already made a commitment to stand by and protect Britain’s world class humanitarian organisations in the event of a no deal situation. British organisations play a leading role in life-saving aid programmes across the world.

“DfID has agreed to fund UK organisations receiving ECHO funding for bids that were approved from 23 August 2018 (the date of our Financial Assurance Technical Notice) until 29 March 2019, for the duration of their implementation from 30 March.

“We will only have a list of organisations and full cost once contracts with ECHO are in place. DfID continues to establish how best to fund NGOs post 29 March and we remain in discussions with ECHO and the NGOs.”

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