Brexit Minister rejects allegations that EU funding was wasted

(Title Image: South East Wales Regional Engagement Team)

Here’s a round-up of this afternoon’s questions for the Counsel General & Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles (Lab, Neath).

Will Brexit make austerity worse?

Delyth Jewell AM (Plaid, South Wales East) highlighted recent UK Government analysis which showed that the UK economy was expected to contract by anything between 2-8% depending on the type of Brexit, with the lower end projection based on the UK staying in the single market. Surely this kind of economic hit would make austerity worse?

The Counsel General agreed with that assessment, but Delyth said Labour’s policy of leaving the single market and customs union would cause significant damage to Wales. Shouldn’t the Welsh Government be doing all it can to prevent this and arguing for a second referendum and remaining in the EU?

To the Counsel General, it wasn’t that black and white:

“In relation to her description of the Welsh Government’s position, which remains, as I will say again, as described in the policy document agreed with her party, it is not a question of being outside a custom’s union. We have called for a permanent custom’s union with the EU and close alignment to the single market….And I do reject the point about party political expediency. There are difficult judgments to be made in reconciling the response the British public gave in 2016 with what we understand in this place….to be the damage caused to the Welsh economy as a consequence of Brexit.”
– Counsel General & Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles

Welsh Government “failed to manage EU funds”

Shadow Brexit Minister, Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West) asked for more information about a committee set up to investigate post-Brexit structural funds – for some reason, it’s not in the public domain. There was also an onus on the Welsh Government to learn lessons from its previous management of structural funding:

“Do you accept that the previous use of structural funds was squandered….by the Welsh Government? Do you accept that there’s some responsibility on the Welsh Government for the failure to use those funds to boost our Welsh economy, particularly given that our productivity and our wages are behind many other parts of the UK, and we remain one of the poorest nations – certainly in west Wales and the valleys – of all Europe?”
– Shadow Brexit Minister, Darren Millar AM

The Counsel General rejected the “outrageous allegations” that EU funds were mismanaged. The benefits in skills, productivity and such over the last few decades were outlined in Economy Questions. It was now down to Westminister to live up to the Leave campaign’s promises and ensure Wales wasn’t “a penny worse off” after Brexit than before it. Could the UK Government be trusted to manage the proposed Shared Prosperity Fund in Wales?

Research underway on Brexit’s impact on supply chains

Delyth Jewell AM later asked a second question on Brexit’s supply chain impact, particularly within the automotive sector:

“Since the referendum, the automotive sector in the UK has announced a number of closures. The debate about to what extent Brexit is to blame rages on, but people have genuine concerns about their jobs. The closure of the Honda plant in Swindon worries me….since one of its component suppliers is the Kasai plant in Merthyr Tydfil which employs 200 people. It’s one of 12 Welsh suppliers that face grave risks in the face of the (Swindon) closure, and follows on from the news that 400 voluntary redundancies are expected at Ford in Bridgend and 220 jobs are on the line due to the closure of the Schaeffler plant in Llanelli.”
– Delyth Jewell AM

Nick Ramsay AM (Con, Monmouth) added his own concerns about the future of Monmouth’s Tri-Wall Europe which manufactures cardboard packaging for the car industry.

The Counsel General said the Welsh Government has “made representations” to the UK Government over UK-wide planning. Closer to home, EU preparation funding is being used to research and map out the supply chains of companies like Tri-Wall in a global, EU and inter-UK context so policy-makers can better understand the potential impacts.

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