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Brexit no-deal papers (II): Key points for foundations

As October’s negotiations draw closer, the Westminster government continues to prepare for a no-deal scenario. From a second set of papers that made headlines with implications for travelling, driving, and using mobile phones abroad, we’ve drawn out some key points for foundations. Foundations active in the fields of environmental protection or seafaring, or that regularly travel to or transact with the EU, may wish to see the full list of papers here.

We’ll continue to summarise the papers as they emerge; for more information, contact emma@acf.org.uk and see the first summary here.

More information on EU-funded programmes

The latest papers lay out plans for two particular funds: the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The former supports projects that aim to tackle disadvantage, covering issues such as skills and employment, and have been the focus of efforts by ACF and others to ensure they are replaced in a way that is accessible to the voluntary sector. The latter aims to support regional growth by providing funding for the most disadvantaged regions. Many foundations’ grantees could be in receipt of funding from these pots, and any loss or reduction of these funding streams could have a significant impact on beneficiaries.

The Withdrawal Agreement states that the UK would participate in both ESF and ERDF until the programmes’ current rounds conclude in 2023. The government has also committed to funding all current ESF and ERDF projects (that would otherwise be funded by the EU) between the UK’s exit in March 2019 and the end of the programme in 2023.

This gives some reassurance to charities over the next five years, but it does not address how these funds might be replaced in the long term. Notably, there is no mention of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which has been referred to elsewhere as the potential successor to these EU pots.

Data protection

After significant efforts to implement new standards of data protection, it will be a relief for many foundations to know that there wouldn’t be any immediate changes in UK regulation. Through the Data Protection Act 2018 and the EU Withdrawal Act, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation would continue to apply, and the Information Commissioner’s Office would continue to be the UK regulator.

However, foundations that share data with organisations or subsidiaries based in the EU may be affected by changes in the event of a no-deal. UK-based organisations would be able to transfer data to EU-based organisations freely, but action may need to be taken in order to receive data from EU-based organisations. These actions would depend on the outcome of an EU ‘adequacy assessment’ after the UK has completed its exit, but the government is recommending that organisations that might be affected start considering their legal basis for sharing data now.

What next?

It is rumoured that there could be up to 80 papers in total, with more than 50 published to date. With party conferences imminent and the negotiations in Brussels looming, it seems likely that it won’t be long before the remaining papers are made public. Many will be watching closely for provisions relating to the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and plans for the Irish border, which have not yet been the focus of a published paper.

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