The issue of Brexit is still very much a moving feast, and while the government ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ website aims to help individuals and organisations – including charities – prepare, there is still much confusion from all sectors about what Brexit – in whatever form it may eventually take – will mean for them.
In addition, Brexit aside, it is looking hugely likely that there will be a general election in the not too distant future.
Both of these will of course have repercussions for charities. The Charity Commission is a great source of information and advice, and has published guidance on the five areas in which charities can best prepare for Brexit. It also has really important guidelines around campaigning and lobbying during elections and referendums. This includes specific advice on the period between an election being called, and polling day.
Key to these is the importance of remaining independent. While charities cannot have a political purpose, they can lobby for changes to the law, as long as the changes directly support their charitable purpose. However, this does not extend to giving support to a particular candidate or political party, although it is acceptable to express support for specific policies.
There is a fine line to be walked between taking the opportunity to campaign for changes while parties are developing their manifestos, and ensuring that you remain completely independent. The consequences of overstepping this mark could be severe.
As such, in the run up to any election being announced, it will be important for charities to start to be extra vigilant about remaining neutral. While this includes key aspects, such as those highlighted above, it also includes less obvious elements.
For example, ensuring that any trustees or employees who engage in political activity are doing so in a strictly personal manner and making this very clear. It even extends to hiring out charity premises for political meetings.
We regularly advise a wide range of charities on a variety of legal issues. So if you have any questions at all about the potential impact of Brexit, or how best to remain neutral in the run up to an election, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.