New information for North Sea Region projects with UK participation
While the debates about a deal or no deal Brexit are continuing, in the Secretariat we have received more information about the likely consequences for our projects with UK participation.
It is important to bear in mind that the purpose of this note is not to predict whether or not a deal or a no-deal Brexit will occur, but merely to provide advice for project beneficiaries on how to prepare for either of the two possible events.
A Brexit with a deal
If the UK leaves with a deal, it is expected that the UK will continue to participate in European programmes until they are going to close. This means that full funding for projects will be available from the programmes under the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, including the North Sea Region Programme.
A no-deal Brexit
What can we do to minimise the consequences of a no-deal Brexit?
A no-deal Brexit situation will have consequences for both lead beneficiaries and project beneficiaries. Some consequences are the same whilst others differ. Both situations are described below.
Implications for lead beneficiaries
If/when the UK leaves, the European Union payments to projects with a UK lead beneficiary will no longer be possible as lead beneficiaries must be located in a member state partner or an eligible third country such as Norway.
The UK is, at the moment, not an eligible third country. This means that projects with a UK lead beneficiary will have to transfer the role as lead beneficiary to a beneficiary in the remaining partner countries. Such a move requires the agreement of all partners in the project. Projects will only be able to continue if they will be able to achieve their objectives despite the changes in UK participation.
Administratively, this requires a project beneficiary who is willing to take over the role as lead beneficiary and, subsequently, agreement in the partnership. In other words, as long as there is agreement in the partnership, the transition is easy. In the North Sea Region Programme, 9 projects have a UK lead beneficiary and will be affected by this situation.
Implications for project beneficiaries
Once the change of the lead beneficiary is completed, the UK guarantee steps in. The UK government has made provisions for a no-deal Brexit covering all UK beneficiaries. These provisions are set out in the UK government’s guarantee for EU funded programmes which was updated in August 2019. The guarantee means that UK organisations will receive funding for participating in EU funded programmes, over a project’s lifetime, for any successful bid before the end of 2020. The guarantee only covers UK organisations. Funding distributed to beneficiaries outside the UK by a UK lead beneficiary is not covered.
More information can be found here:
In addition to this, it has been brought to our attention that UK officials are working on several solutions all aiming towards minimising the negative effects of a no-deal Brexit. The underlying idea is, as far as possible, to make use of the existing administrative structures in each programme. As new information on the outcome of this work becomes available, we will communicate this to all relevant stakeholders in the project community.
What can our projects do?
We would recommend projects with UK beneficiaries to discuss the prospects of a no-deal scenario. The UK Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will be contacting all UK beneficiaries and provide the necessary support for their plans for a potential no-deal Brexit.
In the North Sea Region Programme, this affects 54 of our 68 current projects. It is important to emphasise that the information provided in this paper reflects what we know so far and that there are still a lot of open questions. The situation changes constantly and at this stage no one knows how the Brexit situation will end. We do, however, remain confident that this will not mean the end of your project, but that steps will have to be taken to ensure that all projects continue.
We will keep informing projects about any relevant updates on Brexit. In the meantime and to get a better idea about the uncertainties in the partnerships, we will start to collect questions. We will do our best to find answers in close dialogue with the relevant institutions.
Christian Byrith is Head of Secretariat while Carsten Westerholt is Deputy Head of Secretariat at the North Sea Region Programme.
This article was updated on 17 September 2019.