No-Deal Brexit Adds Pressure to Disadvantaged Communities

Written by: Posted on: 8 August 2019

Almost everyone has been wondering whether new Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be able to achieve a favourable Brexit deal, with the consequence of a no-deal or hard Brexit top of mind. Churches in particular have been vocal about the negative effects a no-deal Brexit will have on disadvantaged communities and people living on the breadline. In fact, Church leaders have written a letter to the Prime Minister outlining the most likely outcomes for at-risk families.

The Salvation Army, Methodist Church, and Church of Scotland, as well as three other denominations believe that given the current strained financial market a hard Brexit would be irresponsible as it would worsen the situation. They want the government to publish evidence of the consequences for disadvantaged communities.

Ideally situated

The letter’s authors, who work closely with people in need, wrote, “In essence, the Government will be relying on the hope that our former EU partners are willing to cooperate even without an agreement – a huge gamble to take with the basic needs of our poorest citizens and communities.”

Church leaders have invited the Prime Minister to visit one of their schemes that support those who live in poverty to better understand the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

Commissioner Anthony Cotterill, The Salvation Army’s Territorial Leader in the UK with the Republic of Ireland, said that the organisation has over 750 community churches and social centres that support vulnerable people. Staff and volunteers are intimately familiar with the hardships people face, and work hard through initiatives that include debt advice, food parcel programmes, and homeless centres, etc., to provide essential, practical assistance.

Commissioner Cotterill said, “We are deeply concerned about the impact a no-deal Brexit could have on those who are most disadvantaged and call on the government to provide evidence to allay those concerns.”

He added, “We are not taking a position on Brexit and although we have real concerns about the impact of a hard-Brexit we are not taking a position on that either. We are asking the government to explain what it will put in place to help those who are already struggling to buy food and pay the bills.

“The issue of Brexit has divided the country, communities, and churches, but there is one thing that should unite both sides of the debate; compassion for those who are currently living in poverty.”

In the letter, the churches raised specific concerns regarding food supply and pricing. There are also concerns that a no-deal Brexit will adversely affect medical supplies and could even affect the availability of energy.

Commissioner Cotterill said, “A series of reputable sources have highlighted the risk that a hard Brexit will have on food prices. We responded by developing a Brexit Toolkit to help all out Corps and centres prepare should more people turn to us for help. This letter is asking the government to do the same.”

The full letter is included below:

Dear Prime Minister,

As Churches, we have a particular care and concern for the people in our society who are locked in poverty.  Around the country, local churches are helping families to cope with the rising tide of poverty. Projects range from simple coffee mornings run by a few volunteers, to large projects such as foodbanks, homeless support, employment advice and debt counselling.
With this in mind, we are compelled to write expressing our urgent concern about your position that leaving the European Union without a deal is acceptable. Advice and data from multiple reputable sources, including the UK Government, indicate that failing to agree a deal will hit those held back by poverty very hard indeed.

The UK imports 10,000 shipping containers of food from the EU each day. These containers are part of long and complex integrated supply chains. Even minor disruptions to this chain have in the past rapidly had serious consequences. A no-deal Brexit will cause a huge and potentially crippling disruption. Government and many other reputable sources highlight the immediate risk of shortages and price rises. Over the longer term they point to the costs of new and less fluid supply chains increasing food bills for families.

Last year our partner, Trussell Trust, which represents around half of the UK’s foodbanks, gave out a record-breaking 1.6 million 3-day supplies of food. At a time when increasing numbers of families have difficulties putting enough food on the table, we believe it is irresponsible to consider a course of action that is expected to make that situation worse.
It is also unclear how a wide range of other vital products and services will continue to be delivered in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Government, industry and charity sources indicate potential problems with both energy and medical supplies.

The UK Government’s no-deal planning documents highlight that many of the difficulties caused by a no-deal Brexit can only be tackled in collaboration with the EU. The Cabinet Office states that for many issues we must seek accommodations with the EU which are “not within the UK’s gift to unilaterally control or mitigate”. In essence, the Government will be relying on the hope that our former EU partners are willing to cooperate even without an agreement – a huge gamble to take with the basic needs of our poorest citizens and communities.
The impacts of a no-deal Brexit are at best highly uncertain, and at worst deeply worrying. Our view that it would put at risk the welfare and safety of the poorest communities in the UK is formed on the basis of the best available evidence, including our presence in local communities in every part of the UK . It is notable that assurances about our ability to cope with a no-deal Brexit, while frequent, are yet to be supported by substantial evidence.

Evidence-free dismissals of well-founded concerns are at this stage both dangerous and inappropriate. Your Government’s willingness to embrace a no-deal Brexit places upon it a responsibility to demonstrate that the most vulnerable in our communities, those locked in poverty, will not be harmed.  We ask that your Government urgently publishes its current evidence on the impact of a no-deal Brexit on disadvantaged communities. We would also be pleased to welcome you to one of our many projects to hear from those who a no-deal Brexit may most impact.

Rather than being absent from the debate, this evidence and these communities should be at the heart of our debates around Brexit.

We assure you of our prayers as you take up this challenging new role.

Yours sincerely,

  • Revd Nigel Uden, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
  • Mr Derek Estill, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
  • Professor Clive Marsh, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference
  • Revd Dr Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference
  • Revd Dr Richard Frazer, Convenor of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland
  • Rev Lynn Green, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain
  • Rev Alan Donaldson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
  • Parchedig/Reverend Judith Morris, Ysgrifennydd Cyffredinol/General Secretary, Undeb Bedyddwyr Cymru/Baptist Union of
  • Wales
  • Most Revd Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Commissioner Anthony Cotterill, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army UK with the Republic of Ireland
    Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain