Keeping the EU’s benefits a secret

Brenig Davies laments the lack of public promotion of what the EU has done for Wales.

Where have all the flowers (EU Remain signs ) gone? Long time passing. (Joan Baez & Bob Dylan – shame they can’t vote to Remain)

The EU brings real benefits to Wales – through the single market and substantial EU funds annually. Yet we seem to keep it a secret. Frequently, a sign indicating that a project receiving EU funding – such as a road by-pass – is either hidden behind a bush, often left to rot or taken down once the project has been completed. Signage is almost always less eye-catching than one  attracting the attention of car drivers advertising a new housing development (for executives!). Big signs for big money. Executive houses at a fraction of the cost of many part-funded EU projects.

Welsh Government acknowledge that with the help of EU money Wales has benefited greatly since 2000; supporting business, research and innovation, helping people into work, increasing skills, improving transport and digital networks, regenerating our communities, and enhancing our environment.

There are few communities, amenities and businesses that have not benefited from EU funding in one way or another. Some examples of EU investments include; working skills for adults, training in the energy sector, flood management, local regeneration, help for firms to export goods, helping women gain work and new and improved rail services.

Just as a selection of projects the list is impressive. But when I visit or pass projects, there is often not a sign to show that the facility was part paid for by EU structural funds. Paradoxically it is often proudly exhibited in a brass plaque in the manager’s office, hidden from the users of the project.

Much has been said by the European Commission about this lamentable state of affairs. But seldom does the sign reflect – which is mandatory to display prominently –  the size or lasting impact of the project.

The EU referendum is just four weeks away. If we are Remain supporters we do have time to promote the gains that have greatly benefited ourselves, throughout Wales.

If we had more time we supporters of Remain should have lobbied for Billboards in prominent positions much earlier: high streets, road roundabouts and T junctions. That, I guess, is too late now. But what about plastic pop- up posters? Garden centres and shops promoting their sales are able to have these printed and put up in days. Remain activists could do the same. Place them where young people notice them. Polls suggest young people are more likely to  support Remain. We also know they are also less likely to vote. Perhaps it is already planned, or in place, but college and university students will willingly, I’m sure, do their bit for Remain, along with other young people.

Brenig Davies is contributor to The Eye website.

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