BLOG: Charities could pay a significant price if the UK votes to leave Europe

The UK has a fantastic, thriving charity sector which is recognised around the world for the great work it does saving and changing lives here and abroad. Many of these charities receive much needed funding from the EU and they could take a serious financial hit if the UK leaves the European Union.

Britain is stronger, safer and better off in Europe than we would be out on our own. Leaving would risk our prosperity, threaten our safety and diminish Britain’s influence in the world. The benefits of membership clearly outweigh the costs. And that’s also true for the charity sector. British charities benefit hugely from our membership of the EU and they could pay a significant price if the UK votes to leave Europe.

EU funding helps charities work with partners across the continent and to foster civil society. 249 different UK charities and third sector organisations benefitted from over £217 million in funding from the EU in 2014.

Examples of British charities that have been supported by EU funding include Oxfam which received more than £38 million, the International Rescue Committee which got over £22 million and Save the Children which received more than £19 million.

European support for Oxfam has included funding for programmes to deliver emergency support for people affected by disaster in Pakistan and provide aid for the Yemini people affected by armed conflict. European funding has also supported Save the Children programmes including ones to help prepared communities in Somalia affected by natural disasters and conflict and to support the treatment and prevention of severe malnutrition in part of Nigeria. Leaving Europe would put this funding at risk.

Friends of the Earth have also been vocal on the importance of staying in the EU. In a statement it said that “the evidence clearly demonstrates that membership of the EU has a critical role in continued advancement of the charity’s charitable objectives, contributing to protection of the UK’s environment, habitats and species, and benefiting the public by protecting human health from environmental harm such as air pollution.”

In February some of the most prestigious figures in UK overseas aid published a letter warning that withdrawal from the EU would diminish Britain’s role in the world and set back British efforts to tackle global poverty and climate change. Signatories of the letter include some of the biggest UK aid charities, including Oxfam, Action Aid, The World Wildlife Fund, and Christian Aid. They made an appeal to the millions who support Britain’s leadership role on aid to support continued EU membership. The letter and the number of respected signatories demonstrate how fundamental EU funding is to these charities.

The choice facing us in this referendum is the biggest in a generation. It won’t just impact charities, but every person in Britain. It is a choice between economic security and global influence as part of the EU, or a leap in the dark.

A vote to stay is a vote for certainty. We’ll be stronger, safer and better off in Europe because we’ll get to keep access to the single market of 500 million people, with a say over the rules of doing business across Europe. That means more jobs, lower prices, and more financial security for British families.

A vote to leave is a vote for risk. Vote Leave say they’ll walk away from the single market and negotiate a new deal, but they can’t explain what it would be and how long it will take.

The truth is if we left, the EU would not give us a better deal than they have for themselves. Every family in Britain is better off as part of Europe. That was made clear by the Treasury whose analysis in April showed that leaving would place a heavy financial burden on all of us. According to their figures, the British economy would be hit to the tune of £4,300 per household and our GDP will have shrunk by more than 6 per cent. This damage to the economy will affect funding for many aspects of society, such as schools and the NHS.

The outcome of the referendum will have a direct impact everyone from Britain, from students to scientists, from farmers to bankers, from entrepreneurs to manufacturers, and of course the charity sector. Leaving Europe is a risk and one we can’t afford to take.

By Anna Turley, Shadow Minister for Civil Society

N.B.Charity Times has invited representatives of the Leave campaign to provide a column setting out their position on the impact of EU membership on UK charities

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