Monique Pariat, director-general for humanitarian aid and civil protection at the European Commission. Photo by: Bernal Revert / ECHO / CC BY-ND

DAVOS, Switzerland — The head of the European Union’s humanitarian agency, ECHO, has warned British NGOs to “prepare for the worst” as the chances of a no-deal Brexit increase, putting existing aid contracts at risk.

Speaking to Devex on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Monique Pariat, director-general for humanitarian aid and civil protection at the European Commission, confirmed that U.K. NGOs will lose their ECHO funding if no Brexit deal is reached but said there were other options for continued collaboration.

“It’s true that [Brexit] has an impact because a large part of the NGOs we are working with are U.K. based. But there are other ways they can work [with ECHO] as implementing partners.  We've been working for the last two years also to warn them about their situation and some of them are relocating inside the EU,” she said.

Another option could be for U.K. NGOs to work as implementing partners with EU-based NGOs, Pariat suggested.

“There are different scenarios they can opt for but I think everyone has to be realistic and for the moment the only thing we can do ... is to prepare for the worst but hoping for the best, and hoping for an orderly outcome from the situation,” she added.

Her comments come as U.K. lawmakers struggle to agree over the terms of the country’s exit from the EU. Earlier this month, politicians rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed deal, increasing the risk of a cliff-edge Brexit in two months’ time. 

Last January, the EU started introducing disclaimers in ECHO contacts stating that existing funding agreements could be cut off if no deal is agreed. The U.K. Department for International Development has agreed to underwrite some of these, but U.K. NGOs are still facing significant uncertainty. Some have started opening offices and subsidiaries elsewhere in the EU in an effort to maintain access to EU funding.

Speaking at Davos on Thursday morning, the British secretary of state for development, Penny Mordaunt, insisted "we will get a deal imminently on Brexit."

About the author

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    Sophie Edwards

    Sophie Edwards is a Reporter for Devex based in London covering global development news including global education, water and sanitation, innovative financing, the environment along with other topics. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.