Brexit could cost the UK its leadership role in development
The UK may lose its authority to fund and influence sustainable development if it chooses to leave the European Union (EU), warns the
Overseas Development Institute
. On 23rd June 2016, the UK will hold a historic
on whether to remain in or leave the EU, casting doubt on the country’s future impact on
international sustainable development goals
(ISDGs). The EU is the world’s largest trading bloc made up of 28 member-states, as well as its largest aid donor. EU countries including the UK contribute a combined €55 billion (US$62.2 billion) to international aid, around half of the total global spend. This sum exceeds some of the world’s leading donors, including the World Bank Group and UN agencies.
Kevin Watkins, Executive Director
of the Overseas Development Institute, says the UK plays a leading role within the EU of setting standards for the ISDGs. Britain’s track record for diplomacy and effective aid in the developing world hangs in the balance with the approaching referendum, he said. “When it comes to international development, Britain is a global superpower. If you think about debt relief for Africa, the commitment to open up the European market to the poorest countries in the world, or global vaccine funds, its very hard to point to other countries and find comparable examples,” Watkins told Development Finance. In March 2015, the UK committed to a total spend of 0.7 percent of its annual income on aid, becoming the first G7 country to meet the
United Nations’ (UN) aid spending target
. Exiting the EU could undermine the UK’s current commitments to development if the country’s independence reduces its economic income, which could result from trade links being broken with the continent. Watkins said the campaign to leave the EU overlooks the UK’s vital role in developing economies worldwide, and undermines any goals the country may wish to set out if it weakens its leverage among EU donors that, through the
Lisbon Treaty
, share similar values. “The EU has development finance institutions that could be working much closer together but the Brexit camp suggests it wants to take the UK towards a policy of making no difference whatsoever,” he said. “In an interdependent world, you can be an island in a literal sense, though not in a moral sense.”
By Jack Aldane
Photo: UK AID