Brexit has raised issues for individual UK experts and companies alike in regard to eligibility for EU contracts. The British Council would like to confirm that it is business as usual until we hear otherwise.
As the implications of Brexit are still in the process of being worked out by the UK government, we have been closely monitoring the situation and still maintain confidence in the world of EU contracting.
Following the Brexit announcement, we sent an email to those consultants registered on our database on behalf of Sally Robinson, Head of Business Development, to address any initial concerns about the impact of the decision to leave the EU. The aim of this communication was not to provide a definitive response to the final terms of Brexit, as we cannot guarantee what they will be, rather to provide information as to how we are interpreting the situation at this stage of the process. The statement read as follows:
The British Council has been working internationally and with our European neighbours for over eighty years. We believe that the cultural and educational connection between the UK and other European nations will remain vital to build confidence and trust in the post-Referendum settlement. For the foreseeable future there is no change in status for our programmes.
The United Kingdom remains an EU Member State with full rights and obligations until an exit agreement has been signed and ratified by both parties, a process which is scheduled to take two years. The European Commission has emphasised that its current interest in working with the British Council is not affected by the referendum result.
We are committed to continuing to work with our consultant partners on projects and other opportunities which meet our common objectives and our commitment to development. On this basis we trust we can continue to work together on current and future international development projects.
There is a determination from the Government that the UK will continue to play a leading role in European and International Development, and the British Council will do all we can to support this aim. We were established to build a friendly knowledge and understanding between people of the UK and other countries, and this role is as important now as it ever was.
We hope that we will continue to work together on initiatives and projects that promote internationalism, diversity, tolerance and partnership globally.
In response to the above, Pete Woods, one of the British Council’s registered independent consultants, provided the following feedback:
I have worked on many assignments for the British Council albeit not recently. That is a great pity because I was recently reminded as to why it was always a great pleasure to work with them. A number of British consultants have been asking questions about what ‘Brexit’ would mean for them in terms of future work and their eligibility to be included in European Union programmes as consultants. For me this just goes to show the British Council thinks beyond the bottom line and has consultant interests at the forefront of their business strategy. Well done!
Following on from Sally’s communication, and four months on from the 23 June decision, little has changed. However, during a recent visit from an EU delegation, we posed the following question around eligibility during a tender exercise: ‘What are the risks associated with Brexit for potential applicants/ co-applicants with UK nationality?’ To which we received the following unequivocal response:
'Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union sets out the procedure to be followed if a Member State decides to leave the Union. Negotiations with the United Kingdom regarding the terms and conditions of its withdrawal from the EU will start once the UK gives formal effect to the decision of the British people expressed in the referendum of last 23 June. Until this process of negotiations is over, the United Kingdom remains a full member of the European Union, with all the rights and obligations that derive from this. After its withdrawal, it is expected that signed contracts will be honoured until their end date.’
So, it seems that for the medium-term, UK experts and consultancy firms should operate on a business as usual basis if asked the EU eligibility question.