This is it, this time it is for real. When I come back to the (home) office after the Christmas break, Brexit will be the new reality for me… and you.

As I write, many questions remain unanswered, including as to whether or not there will be a deal. Also, let’s face it, in the midst of a global pandemic not many of us have had the time and space to reflect on what’s coming our way in 2021. But from social care to international development, from funding issues to risks to youth mobility, we must prepare for changes to the way we live and work – the question is: preparing for what exactly?

The impact of Brexit on the voluntary sector will be significant. In the short to medium term, there will be impacts on supply chains with a potential increase in food prices for example. Medicines, procurement and data protection policies may also be affected to name just a few. On top of this, and adding to the effects of coronavirus, demands on services will also increase and once again vulnerable people in our society will suffer the most. As an EU national I benefited from the freedom of movement which will end and that will severely impact our sector’s workforce too, including volunteers. Our work with Camphill and the Alliance has already highlighted the effects on the social care workforce (the issue is now being taken forward by the House of Lords). Importantly the erosion of human rights and standards is another huge risk that cannot be ignored. It won’t be business as usual; Brexit will affect us all.

The UK Internal Market Bill became law last week but discussions are still ongoing regarding its implementation and issues like the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, with very little time left for political scrutiny and transparency. The fear is that less resources will be available to the sector and, with 11 days to go, no one knows what the new application processes might look like. SCVO welcome the recognition by the Scottish Government that voluntary organisations will be in need of support, and that they will provide as much funding as possible to the sector (check out our latest webinar with Mike Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs). Stage 3 of the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) Bill will also go through the Scottish Parliament this week and aims to keep EU law in Scots law for areas that have been devolved to Scotland. But, in the longer term, we also need to be aware of the impact of Brexit on devolution and consider the apparent drive for centralisation by the UK Government.

Nevertheless all is not lost. We, along with other sectors, still have a chance to make our voice heard now and over the next few months as we try and adapt to this new reality. So what can we do?

  • EU citizens and EU settlement scheme: protecting EU citizens must be a priority for all voluntary organisations. Although deeply frustrating (I had to do it myself), the application process will be easy for many but it might be more complex for some people. You can check the Stay in Scotland campaign and find out more on our website.
  • European networks: we all need to work towards maintaining strong links with European partners now and in the future to avoid the risk of isolationism.
  • Participative policy: discussions on all these issues should not happen behind closed doors and the sector should continue to call for participative policy making as noted by Mhairi Snowden in our latest webinar.
  • Common frameworks: these are currently under discussion and SCVO will work with the sector and Scottish Government on this in the new year (If this is of interest, please contact my colleague Craig Wilson at craig.wilson@scvo.scot).

As if 2020 had not been challenging enough, the truth is that the start of the new year will be even harder to manage for many individuals and organisations. All sectors and local authorities in Scotland will be affected by either coronavirus or Brexit[1] (and most likely both). Building back better won’t be easy but we cannot finish this year on yet another gloomy note. Working in partnership across sectors will help us mitigate what lies in front of us. So looking ahead to 2021, I wish for greater collaboration and trust (you can take me out of the EU but you can’t take the EU out of me!).

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me in the new year (rachel.lenoan@scvo.scot) to share your experience of Brexit and its impact on your organisation.


[1] See the latest economic commentary from the Fraser of Allander Institute