Breaking up is hard to do

Phil Parry says politicians need to ask themselves why areas which receive the most EU funding in Wales voted to leave the EU.

Leaving the EU will have devastating consequences for Wales.

Since the closure of all the deep mines we have come to rely more and more on inward investment. Last year was the second best on record. Welsh Government figures show that more than 6,000 jobs were created or safeguarded in Wales. The value to the Welsh economy was more than £660 million.

Businesses such as Ford (at Bridgend) and Unilever (everywhere) emphasised during the campaign how leaving the EU would cost them millions of pounds.

From 2014 – 2020, projects with EU backing include:

  • A centre for high-end research in Swansea University (£31.1 million).
  • Cardiff University Brain Research and Imaging Centre (£16.2 million).

Since 2007 EU projects have achieved:

  • Support for 229,110 people in securing qualifications.
  • Help for 72,700 people to get into work.
  • The creation of  36,970 jobs and 11,925 enterprises.

A research paper prepared for the assembly this month, said:

“Wales is anticipated to receive around €5bn of EU funding during 2014-2020. Leaving the EU is likely to see access to most if not all of this money disappear in the future.”

Access to the single market of 500 million people was a major attraction for companies.

Altogether Wales has received more than £4 billion of European money since 2000.

Yet out of 22 council areas, there were only five in which more people voted to stay in than voted to leave.

Wales is not isolated from world events and these too are important to watch.

Janet Yellen, chair of the US Federal Reserve, and Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank’s President, both warned during the campaign that Brexit would be enormously damaging for the world economy.

The vote last week has also had huge political ramifications.

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, was a prominent ‘Leaver’ while the Tory Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, supported his (then) boss David Cameron in wanting Britain to remain in the EU.

Jeremy Corbyn’s position as leader of the Labour party in Westminster is precarious. A no-confidence motion among his MPs has produced the extraordinary result of 172 votes against him with only 40 supporting him.The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury Seema Malhotra made the incredible comment:

“For all his qualities, Jeremy is not the leader we need to take us forward. We have an unelectable leader, and if we lose elections then the price of our failure is paid by the working people of this country and their families who do not have a government to stand up for them.”

Yet Mr Corbyn soldiers on.

Attention has turned to the mechanics of how the UK should leave the EU, and when to invoke ‘Article 50’. Gareth Evans is right to say the referendum vote last week was a watershed in British constitutional history. He is also right to highlight the fact that the vote to Leave the EU in Wales was different to those in other devolved regions of the UK.

Why?

Ebbw Vale, which has little immigration, possibly received more EU investment than any other small town in the UK.

The area was identified as the poorest in the whole of North Western Europe and millions of pounds have been spent on Ebbw Vale as a result – much of it from the EU. Transport links were seen as crucial and the ‘heads of the valleys’ road has been revamped at a cost of £79 million. The former steel works is now ‘The Works’ – a flagship regeneration project costing £350 million funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It is home to the £33.5 million Coleg Gwent hosting some of the 29,000 Welsh apprentices funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) .

Yet the area voted overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the EU.
Our political leaders need to ask themselves why and address this question.

Phil Parry is Editor of the investigative website The Eye.

2 thoughts on “Breaking up is hard to do

  1. Phill, Cornwall voted overwhelmingly to leave and it to is also an Objective One area. This isnt a peculiar Welsh phenomenon.

  2. Phil you make my point. This point that I made in an earlier comment is the ‘bemusement and disenchantment of people at the disconnect (word of the decade!) between ‘EU funded’ shiny new buildings, infrastructure developments and projects of various sorts that you have listed above and ‘real life’.
    The main problem with the disbursement of EU funds is the bidding process and subsequent allocation. The funds are only allocated to Projects that have been dreamed up by public sector professionals who have learned how to write the correct words and are considered to be a ‘safe haven’ for the large sums involved. The Projects often appear to have had zero input from the populace or any relation to the actual needs of a particular community. They just look good on paper and have the backing of council or government jobsworthies. Following successful acquisition of these funds then ‘delivery’ elements are put out to tender. The successful bidders, invariably large businesses with whole departments focused on this or pseudo ‘public sector’ entities set up solely for this, have next to zero interest in ‘the public good’, they just want the money. That’s fair enough, it’s business and creates employment (of a sort) but again it contributes to that misunderstanding, suspicion and disconnect between the populace who is supposed to be the beneficiary and the government/councils/public sector who are the actual beneficiaries.
    The EU funds are managed by WEFO a department of the Welsh government. It is the management of this department and its control or lack of control by the Welsh political class that needs to be examined. It is not corrupt (as is possibly the case in many EU countries) it just is not properly seen by our politicians as a vital part of Welsh political life until the time comes to stand in front of those lovely shiny plaques and photo opportunities!
    The Brexit voters in the Valleys might be feeling that if all those EU funded projects are useless white elephants that haven’t benefited their communities or have left them behind in some way, they are probably so disenchanted that no way do they believe or trust that ‘replacement’ funds promised (ahem) by the Leave proponents will appear or be any more focused on them. This is a ‘threat’ that will have no meaning. UKIP or any other party will not be the beneficiary of Brexit. As some politicians have said, ‘the plates have shifted’. There will be broken crockery.

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