Brexit fallout will cut Scotland’s third sector deeply

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Maggie Lennon is calling on Scotland's third sector to get involved now in lobbying for a fair deal for the third sector following Brexit 

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24th March 2017 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

There’s an odd we-just-have-to-deal-with-it-now attitude to the Brexit process which coupled with an “it will all be fine in the end” mantra is dangerous in the face of such a momentous change to UK society.

A recent Poverty Alliance seminar on Brexit poverty and social protection helped to identify policy areas on which the third sector could lobby and make representation.

There are three major issues for civil society surrounding the Great Repeal Bill, as it’s becoming known. The first is the actual divorce settlement, which will include the issue of our possible alimony. That is the most pressing thing time-wise, as it needs to be settled by late 2018.

Maggie Lennon

Maggie Lennon

There is a chance that the Scottish Government, faced with a much-delayed Indy vote, could demand more powers are devolved now, particularly those on equality, employment and full welfare powers

The second is what will happen when all the EU legislation needs to be fitted into a new UK legislative programme. The timescales on that could vary from a couple of years post 2019 to 15 years. The third area is what the free trade deal will look like. This really is the one that could take generations to sort out, not least because each deal must be ratified by every individual member state. Just ask the Canadians how that was for them.

Starting with the divorce settlement we identified that we need assurances and a plan for the replacement for current EU funding streams. This would appear to be directly linked with what the size of the alimony will be, which could be anything from nought to £60 billion.

There is a general belief that in the very first instance most EU legislation around rights will be cut and pasted into UK legislation. But there is the rub. If the UK government puts employment rights and social protection regulations in aspic while EU rules continue to progress, a yawning gap between the UK and the EU on basic principles will emerge. And that’s even without legislation going backwards, as many fear it will. Some Brexiteering was done on the basis that leaving the EU would specifically allow us to reduce regulation in the workplace, for example.

As we don’t have the competency for employment law in Scotland, we will find it harder to influence decision makers to ensure that workers are treated fairly.

Indeed, the whole future of the devolution settlement is at risk. We know some powers such as fishing and agriculture will revert to Westminster. In my opinion, we need an urgent assessment of just how weak post-Brexit devolution might become.

Ever eager to find a silver lining, though, there is a chance that the Scottish Government, faced with a much-delayed Indy vote, could demand more powers are devolved now, particularly those on equality, employment and full welfare powers.

So, what about free trade? Any agreement will depend on something being paid by way of a divorce fee, and there’s the real possibility that we might just leave without any deal at all. Also, the UKs refusal to play nice in the ball pool may encourage some EU members to look forward to our leaving, losing any inclination to ease our journey. Only Ireland of the 27 other member states has said its own economy might be materially worse off if UK leaves without a decent deal.

So where does that leave us all? Well, pretty deflated it must be said, but we agreed that at the very least we should form a progressive alliance to make these cases to the public and politicians. So, if you fancy joining us up there on the barricades, get in touch, as there is plenty of room.

Maggie Lennon is director of the Bridges Programme