Grabbing government power for billions of pounds of cash after Brexit for poorer sectors will further undermine the union, Boris Johnson has warned today.
About £2bn a year was distributed through the EU’s structural funds – most to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose leaders helped decide how and where to spend it.
But, in contrast, a promised replacement – the Common Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) – would be controlled by the government in London, allowing ministers to “direct the investment” and claim any success.
The report, by the prestigious Institute for Government (IFG) think-tank, warns of the risks of change “to further damage trust between the UK and developed governments”.
Tensions are already rising after the prime minister dismissed the devolution as “a disaster north of the border” in remarks from Tory lawmakers that leaked last November.
And in the shake-up following the EU’s withdrawal, the Internal Market Act has also been attacked as a power-grab for limiting powers for developed capitals to set standards on goods and services.
The IFG said the replacement of the Structural Funds created an opportunity to be “more flexible and less bureaucratic than the EU system”.
But it added: “This should be done in a way that respects transfer settlements and takes into account the existing role of developed governments in the administration of structural funds.
“Failure to do so risks further damaging trust between the UK and developed governments, at a time when inter-governmental relations are already strained.
“This could undermine the UK government’s prime objective of connecting the four UK countries together.”
The warning would lead to an existing row in the funding scale, with the new scheme not being launched until April 2020 – creating a one-year gap in spending.
The stop-gap fund is only worth £220m across the UK in the 2021-22 fiscal year – yet Wales insists it will receive at least £375m if it is still part of the EU plan .
The IFG report calls for clear criteria for how funds will be allocated across the UK, allowing local bodies to help identify potential problems.
A consultation should be reformed “immediately”, information should be shared on ministers accused of hoarding.
Only £14m has been made available to help local areas develop proposals to receive funding, which the study warns “is unlikely to be enough”.
In the six years between 2014 and 2020, the UK received €11bn of EU structural funding, topped by “match funding” from Whitehall.
England’s share was €130 per capita, but it was lower than Scotland (€180), Northern Ireland (€510m) and Wales (€780), indicating their high level of deprivation.
The Conservatives’ 2019 general election manifesto promised “minimums” to match EU spending levels in each of the four UK countries, putting heavy pressure on the party.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /