The Charity Finance Group's latest report on Brexit is notably less circumspect in tone than previous iterations, saying baldly that "there is high risk that the government will not use Brexit to support the work of the charity sector based on current policy statements. This means that charities will be left with all of the costs of Brexit and with none of the opportunities..."
It is laudable that CFG is looking beyond any transition phase, to what could be achieved post-Brexit. But because the sector hasn't featured a great deal in the debate, CFG concludes that "as things currently stand, Brexit will be bad for charities and bad for their beneficiaries."
CFG calls on the government to think about a social Brexit and not just about trade deals - in other words, what society will come out of this period? What flexibilities might be available if we broke all links and went 'full WTO' and could these benefit the sector?
As an example, CFG raises the possibility of greater flexibility on state aid rules, before noting that the Government has already decided to import these into UK law post-Brexit lock, stock and barrel. This is presumably because British governments of the centre and centre-right are not advocates of state action that may influence (or distort) markets regardless of outcomes. But it does, intriguingly, provide an example of where a Corbyn government might adopt a different version of Brexit as it would be likely to be much more interested in market intervention. (Incidentally, when Grant Thornton works with clients on Brexit planning we are often asked why we consider a 'Corbyn Scenario' - this is an example of exactly why it's relevant.)
The report also notes that the public don't think charities rank very highly in the government's Brexit negotiations. No-one would argue that charities think they deserve more answers than anyone else - but they would like to get some assurance that their worries are noted and influencing government thinking. In this sense the Civil Society Strategy, published a few weeks ago, seems to have been written in an alternative reality where Brexit isn't a concern and the policy flexibility we have is already sufficient to achieve the Strategy's aims.
With a no-deal scenario looking increasingly likely, we’re deeply concerned that charities and their beneficiaries won’t benefit in any way from Brexit