(Title Image: Welsh Government)
With Brexit about a fortnight away, life after Brexit is moving to the forefront of AMs minds. Yesterday, the Senedd was updated on work regarding one of the key elements – replacing EU regional structural funding (previously known as Objective One).
Counsel General & Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles (Lab, Neath), described the proposed Shared Prosperity Fund as the first major test of the Prime Minister’s pledge to protect the Union.
He added that the UK Government’s actions to date have “fallen way short of promises to engage and consult on (the Fund).” There has, however, been a commitment that the Fund will match the size of those currently received by each UK nation at present.
Plans for a Welsh regional development fund are currently being developed by specialist technical groups and the initial proposals are expected to be published in March 2020 – with a hint that there may be more local and regional control over funding than at present. The new system is expected to be up and running some time in 2021.
Shadow Brexit Minister, Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West), said the UK Government’s commitment to providing “not a penny less” of funding was in black and white in the Conservative 2019 manifesto. The reality to date is EU funds haven’t worked to the extent that was promised in Wales. Any new approach had to ensure places struggling outside the West Wales & Valleys area receive their fair share of support.
David Rowlands AM (BXP, South Wales East) also took exception to the Minister’s scepticism towards the UK Government’s intentions; we needed a reminder that EU funding was heavily restricted while Wales can largely do what it wants with Barnett Formula funding via the UK Government. Why would the Shared Prosperity Fund be any different?
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) accused Darren Millar of being “flippant” and too willing to heap praise on “his London masters” at the expense of Welsh interests. Yes, the early signs from the new Welsh Secretary, Simon Hart, have been promising but with less than a year until Wales loses EU funding completely (at the end of the Brexit transition period in December), words weren’t enough.
David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon) said those deriding the use of EU funds should visit his constituency to see what benefits they’ve delivered. That aside, we still don’t know very much about the Shared Prosperity Fund other than its name: how will it be delivered? Will there be any EU-style restrictions? Will it be funded over several years at a time (like EU funds) or just one year at a time?