Posted on 1 Oct 2019 Last updated on 14 Oct 2019

Brexit will have a significant impact on community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises. A range of resources have been developed within Government and by civil society organisations that will help our members prepare for different eventualities.

With uncertainty regarding Brexit reaching its maximum point, we still do not know what the outcome will be:

  • A hard no deal brexit with the return of full Border controls (in Northern Ireland and at posts linking to the UK);

  • A hard no-deal Brexit with a period of uncertainty about border arrangements during which negotiations continue post Brexit; 

  • Adoption of the negotiated (but not yet ratified by the UK parliament) Withdrawal Agreement;

  • Or, a tweaked version of the Agreement with a revised backstop arrangement that means no border controls.

The important point to note is that Brexit, whatever the outcome, will have as significant an impact on community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises as it will on businesses generally across the island of Ireland. In our January 2019 survey, 54% of The Wheel’s members stated that Brexit will have a direct impact on their work.

Areas of potential concerns include potential changes around import and export processes and documentation and how it will affect your supplies, delays in ports affecting goods, the continued availability of services sources from the UK, and potential new data management, insurance and financial services requirements.

Organisations across Ireland are already preparing, but for many community and voluntary organisations that operate with limited budgets and resources, preparing for Brexit, with all the uncertainty that surrounds it, represents a significant challenge. A no-deal Brexit risks producing outcomes that may severely impact many organisations that support the most vulnerable people in society.

We welcome the Government’s focus on the many facets of Brexit for the Republic of Ireland in its recently-published reports, and call for further analysis of the impact of Brexit on the community and voluntary sector and those it supports.

Brexit Concerns

Following engagement with our membership over the last three years and with our peer organisations in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales, we have developed a list of concerns around Brexit for the community and voluntary sector generally.

  1. The Wheel welcomes recent reassurances around the continuation of the Interreg and PEACE cross border programmes, but significant uncertainty remains around the long-term future of other vital programmes such as these.
  2. All-island organisations face concerns around the development of further divergent regulatory requirements, which would add further costs and overheads to already-stretched resources.
  3. Particularly for community-led organisations located near the border, Brexit will be an every-day potential disaster if people are prevented from crossing the border and engaging in activities together. This kind of cross-border activity is a key part of the daily work undertaken by community groups.
  4. Many community-led organisations work with partners in the four jurisdictions of the UK and in other EU-based countries to draw down funds from European Programmes and to influence policy and thinking at EU level (e.g. Horizon 2020, Interreg). Brexit will create the following problems for them:
    • As the UK jurisdictions will not be eligible, such organisations will have to carry the extra costs and learning curve / time needed of having to reach out to non-English speaking countries to find partners for transnational programme applications, as most funding applications require multiple partners in different countries. This will inevitably result in decreased funds coming to Ireland from these programmes, which means reduced services and that will affect communities and people.
    • Without our UK-colleagues at the various European tables and forums with us, the strength of the voice of community-led organisations from rural areas at the policy-making tables of Europe will be significantly weakened. (This will have a significant impact across the private sector too.)
  5. There will undoubtedly be implications, over time, on citizens’ rights as health and social care services that are organised cross-border become more complex and thus costlier.
  6. Collaboration between people and organisations in ROI and Northern Ireland (and UK) for the public benefit (e.g. joint medical research, cooperation on security, protection of vulnerable groups) must be protected and enabled to continue and to develop.

Below we have gathered together some useful resource points around the impact of Brexit on community and voluntary organisations in Ireland, both from Government and from civil society sources. Please click on any of the headings to access these resources.

Getting Your Business Brexit Ready: Practical Steps (2019)

Brexit and You (2019)

Brexit and You: Northern Ireland

Report of the Joint Committee on Rural and Community Development – Brexit and the Border: The Impact on Rural Communities (2019)

Ireland and the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union: The Government’s Approach (2017)

Preparing for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union: Contingency Action Plan Update (2019)

National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)

Brexit and the Voluntary Sector: Preparing for Change (2018)

The Impact of a No-Deal Brexit on Charities: NCVO Briefing (2019)

Charities and Brexit: Regardless of the Outcome, Preparation is Key (2019)

Northern Irish Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA)

Advice for community, voluntary and charitable organisations in Northern Ireland

NICVA summary briefing on UK Government Brexit paper on Ireland and Northern Ireland

Full set of Resources from The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action available here:

European Commission
Brexit and Ireland

European Movement
Brexit Resources

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
A Union that Strives for More - My Agenda for Europe

Mason, Hayes and Curran (business law firm)

Brexit: Charities and Not-for-Profits (2019)

Brexit Implications for Irish and UK Charities 

Brexit: Tax implications and VAT reform