Giving everyone a stake in post-Brexit Britain

Ahead of the general election, our manifesto sets out what post-Brexit Britain needs from the next government.

Decisions must be informed by the expertise of charities and the communities they represent

Brexit means change. Whether this change is good, bad or somewhere in between will depend on the actions of individuals, communities and the charities that represent them – and the extent to which they can influence the decisions taken by the next government. Participation in a democratic society can and should go beyond voting, and elected representatives will need input from informed charities that often have unrivalled understanding of the issues in their area, and the solutions needed to overcome them.

The great repeal bill will see some 19,000 pieces of EU law converted into UK law. This will often require ‘technical’ amendments such as the removal of references to the EU. Technical amendments that simply enable the law to be converted, so that it can continue to perform the same function after Brexit as it did before Brexit, do not need to be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. However, any proposed amendments that would result in a ‘material’ change to the law must be subject to parliamentary scrutiny – and that is exactly what we’re calling for in our manifesto. This is crucial because it is through parliament that communities and their charities are able to influence the decisions that shape the world we live in.

EU citizens enrich our communities and our economy, and must be able to continue doing so

An estimated three million EU migrants currently live in the UK and 1.2 million British citizens live in other EU countries as a result of free movement rules. These citizens have become integral parts of the community, right across the UK. As parents, friends, partners and colleagues they have enriched our society. This is borne out by an ICM poll taken after the referendum that found some 84% of British people – including 77% of those that voted to leave – felt that current EU migrants in the UK and British citizens living in EU countries should be allowed to stay, and new immigration rules should only apply to new EU immigrants.

Not only do they enrich our communities, EU citizens (who make up 5% of charity staff), make a huge contribution to the UK’s economy, its world-class research and some of the vital public services that society depends on. For instance, around 6% of England’s growing social care workforce – many of whom work for charities – are EU migrants and around 90% of them do not have British citizenship. Social care is already under great pressure, yet the right to stay of a significant proportion of its workforce is currently under threat, as is the care of a great many vulnerable people that depend on them.

It’s not just public services that depend on EU citizens. Our charities are leading innovators in the medical and environmental research fields in which the UK excels, in part because of the diversity of the workforce. Multiple studies have identified internationally co-authored papers as having substantially higher impact than domestic-only papers. It is this collaboration that makes research emanating from the UK, often collaboratively funded by charities, among the best in the world.

More generally, a largely younger EU workforce make a crucial contribution to the economy and will be required to do so moving forward, especially as the UK is close to full employment, has an ageing population and low productivity growth. That is why in our manifesto we are calling on the government to guarantee the rights of existing EU citizens to continue to live and work in the UK, and to put in place simple and affordable visa requirements that allow EU citizens to be able to continue to move to this country to live and work – especially where they underpin sectors that make a crucial contribution to society.

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Brendan Costelloe Brendan Costelloe is senior external relations officer (EU) at NCVO, leading on Brexit work. He previously worked for the RSPB, and prior to that in local government.

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