Plaid Cymru has issued a stark warning to the Secretary of State for Wales, after he indicated that money to replace EU funding could be distributed by Westminster and not Cardiff Bay as is currently the case.
Plaid Cymru’s Treasury Spokesperson Jonathan Edwards MP said that it would be another “economic and constitutional power grab” by Westminster, if the funding was to be taken out of the hands of the devolved institutions. The Westminster Government has currently given little more information than the name – the Shared Prosperity Fund – of the post-Brexit replacement for EU Structural Funds. It was due to publish a consultation on its plans by the end of last year, but has failed to do so.
Responsibility for the Shared Prosperity Fund is currently held by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Currently it is an England-only Government Department, as local government and housing are devolved policy areas.
During a cross-examination of the Secretary of State in a Welsh Affairs evidence session (Monday 1 April), Alun Cairns responded to questions about the structure of the Shared Prosperity Fund by saying there were more “creative” ways the money could be distributed. He repeatedly failed to confirm that the National Assembly for Wales would retain the power to distribute the funds, saying that Westminster may give the money to councils or directly to projects themselves.
Mr Cairns also failed to confirm that the overall amount of funding would be the same as is currently received by Wales as a member of the EU.
Commenting, Jonathan Edwards MP said:
“Westminster has shown little or no regard for Wales throughout the Brexit process. Sadly we shouldn’t be surprised that our post-Brexit funding is not high on their priority list.
“In fact, the only time Wales seems to cross the minds of the Westminster Government is when they want to cancel an infrastructure project, remove funding or take away our powers.
“If, as is being suggested by Alun Cairns, Westminster ignores devolution and takes control of economic development policy post-Brexit, it will be another economic and constitutional power grab of significant proportions.
“We were promised a land of milk and honey post-Brexit, but it looks again like all we will be offered is scraps off the table, as the Welsh Secretary also failed to guarantee the levels of funding we currently receive as members of the EU.
“Westminster must not continue to use Brexit as a blanket under which they roll back devolution – Plaid Cymru will continue fight them every step of the way.”