3 demands for a Brexit putting people and planet first

29 March 2017

On 29 March Theresa May triggered Article 50, setting in motion the process of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. This open letter from Farah Nazeer, director of policy and campaigns at Bond, and Johannes Trimmel, president of CONCORD Europe, sets out three demands for negotiators from the perspective of civil society working in development.

Dear Rt. Hon. Mr Davis MP, Secretary of State,
Dear Mr. Barnier, Chief Negotiator,

How the UK leaves the EU is likely to have a major impact beyond our shores.  The EU, with the UK as a member, has been a global leader in promoting development and human rights around the world. We call upon the negotiating parties to ensure this proud tradition continues and takes into account the ongoing responsibilities and commitments to the poorest and most disadvantaged in EU and UK partner countries.

I. The EU and UK must lead in a turbulent world

In a world in transition we need both the EU and the UK to continue to lead on eradicating global poverty, promoting human rights and realising the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development – in Europe and globally.

Looking to the future, we call on the UK and the EU to rapidly develop a new relationship as responsible, progressive and collaborative actors on the world stage, putting our planet and people first, and leaving no one behind.

We look forward to Theresa May’s ambition of a “United Kingdom to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before. I want us to be a secure, prosperous, tolerant country – a magnet for international talent and a home to the pioneers and innovators who will shape the world ahead. I want us to be a truly Global Britain – the best friend and neighbour to our European partners…”

II. A deal that strengthens multilateral cooperation

The UK and the EU should craft a deal that strengthens cooperation in multilateral structures.

Multilateral cooperation is critical to tackle some of the world’s most urgent challenges, with joint, active engagement to increase equality (e.g. by fighting international tax evasion), protect the climate, promote human security, manage movements of people and ensure human rights for all.

These are issues that no country can effectively tackle alone. For partner countries with limited trade negotiation capacity and resources, it is more efficient to act in equal multilateral fora than to deal with lots of separate partners. This is the case in aid or trade relationships. One alternative for promoting this would be to find a way for the UK to remain an active partner in existing frameworks like the European Development Fund and European Investment Bank.

UK actors, including NGOs, should be allowed to stay full players in EU development programmes while the UK remains a member. Ways should be found (with UK financing for instance) for them to continue to play a valuable role in the future.

Britain has much to gain from a continued multilateral approach to peace, security, migration, climate and other issues, on its borders. The EU, post Brexit, will continue to have much to gain from Britain’s leading role in financing and support for development cooperation. It would be wasteful to lose these mutually assured constructive benefits.

III. Keep the debate dignified and inclusive – avoiding stereotyping and negative public grandstanding

We must all do our part – politicians, the media and interested civic representatives – to promote a respectful debate, worthy of our values and a forty five year history of partnership. Negotiations must aim for the best outcome for all, but in particular, those whose needs are greatest and whose voices are least prominent, within our own continent and among our partner countries.

We call for an inclusive debate, where the voices of European citizens and the citizens in EU and UK partner countries are heard. The public acceptance of the negotiation result will depend on how far the meaningful participation of civil society is ensured. In this you will find a willing partner in the NGO sector.

Whatever the final political arrangement looks like, we all have something to gain in building on our deep historical ties and common values. Our community has kept peace within its borders for an unprecedented period of time in modern history. Re-nationalisation of global agenda and short-term domestic interests will lead neither the UK nor the EU into a future that puts people and the planet first. A commitment we all made when adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Yours sincerely,

Farah Nazeer, director of policy and campaigns at Bond – the UK Development NGO network
Johannes Trimmel, president of CONCORD Europe – the European Development NGO Confederation

Sabine Weyand, the deputy chief negotiator at the European Commission, replied to this letter on 25 April. Click here to read the response [PDF].

About the author

Farah Nazeer
Bond

Farah Nazeer is director of policy and campaigns at Bond

Johannes Trimmel
CONCORD Europe

Johannes Trimmel is the president of CONCORD Europe.