Look at this:
That’s right – Wales received more than £2 billion in EU funding between 2007 and 2013, and was due to receive nearly £2.5 billion between 2014 and 2020 – but Welsh voters have now pulled the plug on that funding. Here’s why:
“What’s the EU ever done for us?” Zak Kelly, 21, asks me this standing next to a brand new complex of buildings and facilities that wouldn’t look out of place in Canary Wharf. It’s not Canary Wharf, though, it’s Ebbw Vale, a former steel town of 18,000 people in the heart of the Welsh valleys, where 62% of the population – the highest proportion in Wales – voted Leave.
Even Kelly, who has just finished a training session on a brand new football pitch, backtracks slightly after asking that question. “Well, I know … they built all this,” he says, and motions his head at the impressive facilities that are all around us. “But we put in more money than we get out, don’t we?”
We’re standing on the site of the old steelworks, a toxic industrial wasteland left rotting when the plant, once the biggest in Europe, finally closed in 2002. It’s now “The Works” – a flagship £350m regeneration project funded by the EU redevelopment fund and home to the £33.5m Coleg Gwent, where some of the 29,000 Welsh apprenticeships the European Social Fund pays for help young people learn a trade. Add in a new £30m railway line and £80m improvement to the Heads of the Valley road from other pots of EU money, and the town centre has just received £12.2m for various upgrades and improvements.
Ebbw Vale, left devastated when the steelworks closed, has had more European money poured into it than perhaps any other small town in Britain. But according to the figures Kelly heard, “we get out £7m a year from the EU and we put in £19m”. Anyway, he says, “it was time for a change”.
Ignorant? Not half. But wait. It gets worse.
It seems the UK regions are campaigning for the UK government to pay them the equivalent of the EU grants they would have received. Read the story here.
That’s not how it works, folks.
You voted to leave the EU because you didn’t like European Union interference in your affairs.
That includes EU funding for EU improvement projects in your region. Those projects will be cancelled once the UK has left the EU.
You probably won’t receive any money from the UK government to replace the funds you have lost.
The UK government is currently run by Conservatives. They don’t care about regenerating Merthyr Tydfil or Ebbw Vale. They want to cut taxes for the very, very rich – and that’s how they are likely to dispose of your grant money.
Did nobody tell you that?
They probably didn’t. Look how people like Nigel Farage, Iain Duncan Smith and Boris Johnson have been backtracking on pre-referendum claims that the mythical £350 million a week the UK was said to pay into the EU would be used to shore up the NHS instead. They’re all denying they ever said such a thing.
Isn’t that right, Boris?
So, as far as those pleas for EU funding to be matched, it looks like the regional authorities concerned will receive the same response as Rupert Myers received from Stewart Jackson MP:
Still, 21-year-old Zak Kelly did say it was time for a change.
Are you happy now, Zak?
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