Event Report: Brexit and International Development Cooperation
Daniele Grippo (Dublin City University)
On 11 October 2018, The DCU Brexit Institute, in partnership with the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) organized an event on Brexit and International Development Cooperation, hosted at the European Parliament Information Office, in Dublin. This event featured an opening Keynote Speech by Ciaran Cannon (Minister of State for international Development of Ireland), introduced by Daire Keogh (Deputy President of DCU). This was followed by an expert panel discussion and a closing Keynote Speech by the Chair Federico Fabbrini (Director of DCU Brexit Institute) and Linda McAvan (Chairwoman of the European Parliament Development Cooperation Committee). The programme of the event is available here. The following is a summary of the event.
Opening Keynote Speech
Ciaran Cannon, Minister of State for international Development of Ireland, emphasized the importance of development cooperation for Ireland and the EU . He pointed out that the EU and its Member States are the main providers of Official Development Assistance (ODA) with an overall amount of €75 billion. Mr Cannon envisaged that Ireland will become a very important African partner in the coming years. He recognized the necessity to guarantee more investments, quoting the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker who said: “Africa does not need charity, it needs true and fair partnership“. He also recognised that after Brexit, it would be necessary to redefine the future relationship with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific. Especially in the last two areas, English-speaking countries are worried about the impact that Brexit will have on their economy. In that regard, Ireland is committed to doing its part by continuing to work in the field of development cooperation.
Niamh Gaynor, Associate Professor at DCU, began her remarks by saying that Africa was a priority for the UK, and that even during the austerity period it managed to maintain the 0.7% target of national income as international aid. She emphasized that not only the aid but also the quality of the aid is important, and in this regard, she highlighted that the main priorities of the development strategy of the UK are to strengthen global security and to promote global prosperity. It is also relevant to consider that for the UK, aid and development cooperation are in the national interest and even after Brexit the United Kingdom will continue its cooperation with Africa. She concluded that investments are the most important area, and since 2005 they have increased significantly in Africa, and even though with Brexit they have declined, they would hopefully rise again.
Suzanne Keatinge, CEO at Dóchas (the Irish Association on Non-Governmental Development Organisations), started her speech by saying that we still do not know what the implications of Brexit are for Irish civil society. However, negative effects from Brexit are to be expected, such as currency fluctuations, or its impact on business relationships and taxation in developed countries. Moreover, there are other problems concerning its implication for UK funding to the EU and climate policy. She highlighted that at this crucial moment it is time for Ireland to step up and claim a leadership role. Irish funding from the EU is very important, and could continue to increase. She concluded by pointing out that while Brexit is a challenge, it is also a huge opportunity for Ireland, in particular for Irish civil society.
Nicolas Levrat, Professor at the University of Geneva, considers Brexit as a journey on uncertain waters since it is still not clear what the consequences will be. Then, he moved on to discuss the negotiations on the next Multiannual Financial Framework of the EU, and on the Commission proposal to include the European Development Fund in the EU budget. However, he emphasised that this shift is happening simultaneously with Brexit, and that funding coming from the UK will disappear in coming years. He concluded analysing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is important to look at the global development agenda because we should not consider development cooperation as an isolated field, but rather part of a broader picture of which Brexit is only one element.
Andrew Sherriff, Head of the the European External Affairs Programme at the ECDPM, considered various elements that could ensure amicable future relations between the UK and the EU on development cooperation. He took into account the shifting of the political order. He analysed the internal politics and factors such as investment, the private sector, migration and security, which are having a growing effect on development cooperation. Mr Sherriff also regretted the fact that development cooperation is completely absent from the Brexit negotiations, where it should actually be a primary concern. Moreover, he pointed out that for Africa, Brexit seems like a complete disaster, but African countries are not in a position to wait around for it to be resolved. This shows that Brexit does not only involve the UK and the EU but also other parties.
Closing Keynote Speech
Linda McAvan, Chairwoman of the European Parliament Development Cooperation Committee, started her speech wondering what Brexit means and what should happen. She recognised the fact that the UK and the EU want to continue to cooperate on development projects, but they do not know how this will be done. The EU is currently working on development cooperation and the European Commission, in its spending proposal, has proposed that EU budget in this field will increase. This mean that the EU without the UK would pay more in development cooperation than now. In addition, the UK can project more global influence as a member state of the EU. In addition, exiting the EU will not even save UK the money, as it will have to spend more in the future to be more efficient in the field of international development cooperation. Nobody knows if it will be a disaster. However if common sense prevails, cooperation will be easier. There are no winners in the Brexit process, but the biggest loser of all is the UK.