What will the EU referendum mean for UK aid?

As the referendum approaches and opinions become even more divided we’re keeping an eye on what UK membership in or out of the EU will mean for our foreign aid sector and our position in supporting the developing world. Below is an article from the Guardian reporting that UK Aid figures are warning Brexit would harm efforts to tackle global poverty.

Some of the most prestigious figures in UK overseas aid, including former United Nations leaders, aid charity chiefs and development advisers to the government, have warned that withdrawal from the European Union would diminish Britain’s role in the world and set back British efforts to tackle global poverty and climate change.

The letter, unlike earlier campaign letters published this week from businessmen and military chiefs, has not been coordinated by Downing Street and is aimed more at a liberal audience dubious that Britain’s internationalist role would be diminished if it left the EU.

Some in the leave camp have argued Britain could carve out a fuller role if it were liberated from the EU, and would be able to forge wider political international alliances, including with former Commonwealth countries.

Key figures in some of the biggest UK aid charities – Oxfam, Action Aid, the World Wildlife Fund, Save the Children and Christian Aid – have signed the letter in a private capacity. They make an appeal to the millions who support Britain’s leadership role on aid to support continued EU membership.

Other signatories are Lady Amos, former UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, Lord Malloch Brown, former UN deputy general secretary and Sir Paul Collier, the economist at Oxford University who has heavily influenced Downing Street’s thinking on helping Syrian refugees in the region.

The signatories contend that EU membership is a practical way to extend the UK’s reach and multiply the UK’s influence, arguing that “cooperation within the EU will be essential to tackling the humanitarian emergency in Syria, the migration crisis, and the wider issues of peace, security and development in the Middle East and north Africa”.

They say: “Every pound of aid the UK spends through EU institutions is matched by £6 from other member states. This larger pool delivers better lives for the poorest people. It also helps tackle problems in areas where the UK has no large presence, for example in the Sahel and parts of west Africa. EU aid complements activities that other aid agencies cannot undertake, like police and security missions in fragile hotspots.”

The authors also say: “UK partnership with the EU helped the UK achieve an ambitious outcome at the climate talks in Paris last year and provides a platform for further work on trade, financial flows, corruption and human rights. In all these areas, the EU demonstrates the value of collective action on a global scale.”

Conceding that not everything about the EU’s delivery of its aid programme is perfect, they nevertheless argue that “British engagement raises standards and improves performance”.

They also point out: “In September last year, the UK and 192 other members of the UN signed up to the new sustainable development goals. These set the whole world, rich countries and poor, on a new path towards peace, prosperity, justice and sustainability. The values underlying the global goals are shared by the UK and embedded in EU treaties. Withdrawing from the EU would diminish the UK’s role in the world and set back our efforts to end global poverty.”

Simon Maxwell, the former director of the Overseas Development Institute who helped to organise the letter, said: “The signatories to this letter represent the UK’s global leadership in international development. As practitioners and advocates in international development, our strongly held view is that the EU needs UK heft and engagement to achieve its global goals – and that the UK multiplies its impact when it works with and through the European Union.

“We now urge the huge numbers of people who support development work in the UK, locally and nationally, to give the EU’s role in international development the profile it needs as we campaign to remain in the EU.”

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