North East MPs took part in a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday which sought to raise concerns about the loss of European Union funding to the poorest regions of the UK.
MPs were discussing the report by the House of Commons library which confirmed recent analysis by the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions showing the amount of funding the UK would receive if we stay in the EU – some £13 billion. After Brexit the North East is very likely to take a large economic hit – which will be even worse if there is no deal – and the Tory government has given no guarantees about how it will replace the funding that will be lost. There has been an ongoing consultation about funding coming via the so called Shared Prosperity Fund but as City of Durham MP, Roberta Blackman-Woods said in the debate: “We’re not even entirely sure, even at this late stage, what exactly the Shared Prosperity Fund will cover.”
We know the UK is a net contributor to the EU. What is really important is that the EU works as a redistributor of wealth – so if government policy ends up making a region poorer the EU steps in and puts in extra money. The Tees Valley and Durham area has now been downgraded by the EU as ‘less developed’ meaning that it is now worse off than in the last funding round of 2014-2020. It is a very worrying trend when you think that Brexit hasn’t even happened yet. Being ‘less developed’ also means you get an even greater amount of EU investment – which can act as a catalyst for new business opportunities and jobs, and better surroundings. Think of Net Park in Sedgefield, Stockton’s Infinity Bridge, Boho in Middlesbrough – they have all benefitted from EU money. It is also a brilliant opportunity for investment to be decided with local and regional involvement.
Listening in on the debate from Brussels, Jude said:
“Let’s face it, can we really trust the Tories to help us out in the North East when the inevitable job losses start happening after Brexit? The EU has put billions of pounds into the North East economy when previous Tory governments underinvested and left us in decline. Independent experts are telling us that this region is going to be worse off after Brexit and losing this key investment is a double whammy that we cannot afford. I want the North East to prosper and reach its full potential – Brexit can’t deliver that, yet another reason to rethink the whole thing and let the people decide on the way forward”