With the EU referendum just around the corner and polls showing a tightly-fought contest, both sides are arguing fiercely about what the future of the UK would look like outside of the EU.
One thing both campaigns can agree on, however, is that a vote to leave would spark a major upheaval in British politics – and charities campaigning in parliament would undoubtedly be affected by this.
So what sort of challenges would charities face in the event of a British withdrawal from the EU, and all of the political turmoil that could come with it?
1. Expect to shout loudly to get your voice heard
In the short term, the impending referendum means that the next few months will be a very difficult time for charities to make their voices heard in Parliament. All other issues are being pushed aside until the public has made up its mind.
With no new policy being developed and little public interest in what is going on inside Parliament, it’s hard to see how charities will have any meaningful opportunities to make a difference at Westminster until the end of June.
This situation could be compounded if we vote to leave the EU. In this scenario, negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal will begin, and will likely dominate the political agenda for the foreseeable future. It would be no surprise if this took years to resolve – and the challenge of shouting over all of this is certainly a daunting one for charities.
2. Get ready to play a role in reshaping policy
If we leave the EU, a whole host of laws made in Brussels will have to be replaced in Westminster, and this could present exciting – and daunting - new opportunities for charities to shape policy.
For example, a vast number of the UK’s conservation policies are currently derived from the EU nature directives, and charities such as RSPB and WWF would doubtlessly want to have a say if these are to be replaced.
In the event of a vote for Brexit, getting your voice heard in this process would surely be a major priority so that the sector can play an important role in deciding what a post-EU Britain would look like.
3. Prepare to build new relationships with new leaders
One of the biggest talking points in the referendum campaign is the future of David Cameron if the UK votes to leave the EU. Although he has ruled it out, many commentators suspect that the Prime Minister would effectively be forced to resign in the event of a ‘leave’ vote, with the likes of Boris Johnson waiting in the wings to launch his leadership campaign.
It’s also possible that we will see a similar change of leadership in the Labour party. Jeremy Corbyn has managed to avoid any serious challenges to his leadership so far, but it’s no secret that the parliamentary party is deeply divided. Disappointing outcomes in May’s local elections and Scottish parliament elections could spark a new crisis for the party, and result in new leadership.
This could be an exciting development for many charities – new leadership would mean new people and policies to influence at the highest level. However, for charities with strong, established relationships with high-level MPs, this could be the beginning of a difficult rebuilding process.
Of course, until we know the outcome of the referendum this discussion is purely hypothetical. Just as we don’t have the facts needed to know for sure what Britain outside of the EU would look like, we can’t be certain of what the impact of a vote to leave would be for charities.
But with the stakes so high, it’s certainly an interesting topic to discuss - even if it’s too early for charities to put serious time and money into planning for Brexit.
If your charity invests time and money in campaigning with the aim of influencing Parliament, make sure you do it in the most efficient way with our Charity Parliamentary Monitor. Download the briefing pack on the right hand side or contact us via email@example.com