Brexit: Wales’ EU aid replacement progress ‘unacceptable’

A465 near Ebbw Vale, part funded by EU structural funds Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Wales receives about £375m every year in EU grants for big investment projects

“Negligible” progress has been made by the UK government to replace EU funds in Wales after Brexit, according to a committee of cross-party MPs.

Former Welsh Secretary and senior Conservative MP Stephen Crabb said the situation was “simply unacceptable”.

Parliament’s Welsh Affairs Committee said the absence of detailed plans to replace £375m a year in European funding showed a “lack of priority”.

The UK government said details of the programme “are being developed”.

Currently, Wales and other nations in the European Union receive EU Structural Funds to support economic development – such as infrastructure, businesses and skills – with poorer regions receiving greater investment.

With higher levels of economic deprivation, Wales received five times more in funding per person than England between 2014 and 2020.

This funding is coming to an end as the UK has now left the EU and the Brexit transition period finishes on 31 December.

In 2017, UK government ministers pledged to introduce measures to replace the EU cash, known as the Shared Prosperity Fund.

But a new report published by the Welsh Affairs Committee warns, with just three months to go until the end of the transition period, “there is still no substantive detail from UK ministers about their plans and a range of issues remain unsolved”.

Conservative, Labour and Plaid Cymru MPs have called for “urgent reassurance” on the new fund to avoid a “cliff-edge to EU funds from January 2021”.

They also want a “firm date” for when substantive information about the fund will be made available – including what it will look like, how it will be funded and who will control it.

The committee has set out their key priorities for the fund, including asking for the money to be “needs-based” and “at least the current size of funding in real terms”.

MPs also recommended the fund should be administered in co-operation and as a partnership between the UK government, the parliaments in Scotland and Wales, the Northern Ireland Executive, and local authorities.

Image copyright PA Image caption Conservative MP Stephen Crabb says there is “still no clarity” over what will replace EU funding in Wales

The committee also said it wanted the funding to be made over an extended period of years to allow “effective planning and delivery”.

Committee chairman, Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Mr Crabb, said “we found that the government hasn’t made anything like sufficient progress in terms of developing clear policy for replacing European funding at the end of this Brexit transition in less than three months’

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