We look at the latest Brexit developments in terms of data protection, campaigning, and the rights of charity staff and beneficiaries
Earlier in January 2021, Charity Digital highlighted the immediate issues for charities to consider amid Brexit. The article followed the trade deal in late 2020 between the EU and the UK, which outlined plans for trade, travel, work, and future co-operation.
The agreement arrived just as the Brexit transition came to an end. It gives the clearest indication of the UK’s long-term relationship with the EU. But there are plenty of details still left to be hammered out, notably on the future of services.
We are nearly a month on from the deal and a number of charities, policy experts, and organisation have been busy examining the implications of Brexit for the charity sector.
Here we outline the latest advice and guidance released in January 2021 to help charities to better understand Brexit and spot opportunities that it may present.
Data is a key area that experts are looking at, with UK data regulation among a raft of policy areas that is intrinsically linked to the EU.
This is particularly the case following the implementation three years ago of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU regulation looking at data protection and privacy issues.
To give immediate peace of mind to UK organisations, the Information Commissioner has confirmed that: “The GDPR is retained in domestic law now the transition period has ended, but the UK has the independence to keep the framework under review.”
Data protection expert Paul Ticher has offered guidance on the implications for charities, via sector body the Directory of Social Change (DSC).
His DSC blog highlights that for at least four months, unless one side objects, the UK will not be treated by the EU as a ‘third country’ – a non-EU or non-EEA country – in terms of the management of data internationally, provided no changes are made to existing data protection legislation.
Under Brexit, the UK government is able to alter EU law that currently applies to the UK. This can present potential threats to the wellbeing of charities’ beneficiaries, as well as opportunities for UK law to benefit good causes, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).
Among potential threats to beneficiaries could be an erosion of employment rights. The NCVO points out, however, that there is also an opportunity for charity campaigners to urge ministers to see where EU law can be improved on.
The NCVO says: “Charities will certainly need to be vigilant about rights and standards that have previously been protected at EU level, but the prioritisation of the ability to diverge from EU rules could provide opportunities in some areas.
“Where the EU approach could be improved, there is now a chance to persuade a government that is keen to demonstrate the advantages of being able to diverge, so it’s important to make sure that opportunity is taken.”
Charity sector campaigning around Brexit is already underway. This includes lobbying and online campaigning by the Charity Tax Group, to improve the UK tax system so that it “maximises the valuable impact of charities” and “does not undermine it”.
This includes ensuring charities have access to funding to help cope with income losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Charity Tax Group wants ministers to “adopt a flexible subsidy control system post-Brexit to ensure charities with large property portfolios do not miss out on essential business grants, designed to help mitigate the impacts of lockdown”.
The environment is set to be another key battle ground for charities looking to ensure good causes are not adversely impacted by Brexit.
For example, Friends of the Earth is campaigning to ensure the UK’s green laws stay as strong, or become stronger, than EU legislation. It has also called for the UK to be “an international leader on climate change” post-Brexit.
Ensuring that staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries who are EU nationals can remain in the UK is another key priority for charities. Under Brexit, UK citizens no longer have an automatic right to live or work in the EU and the same applies to EU nationals in Britain.
An EU Settlement Scheme has been set up, which EU nationals need to apply for by 30 June 2021 to continue living and working here.
An increasing number of charities are warning of the risks, including homelessness and lack of access to support, that EU nationals face if they do not meet the deadline.
Centrepoint and AIRE Centre have already raised concerns in early January 2021. And mental health charity Newport Mind has now warned that as many as 6,000 EU citizens in Wales have yet to apply to stay in the UK.