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Wales invests £1bn in EU funding, but seeks Westminster Brexit guarantees

The Welsh government has already invested over £1bn from the latest round of its EU structural funding into regional schemes, the Welsh finance secretary Mark Drakeford has confirmed.

Drakeford made the announcement as the Welsh government continues to pressure Westminster to promise it future regional funding. Welsh officials are concerned that the country, a net beneficiary of EU funding, may be left underfunded after the UK eventually leaves the EU.

The finance secretary said that the commitment of £1.16bn of the structural funding allocation, 60% of the total available for the round, showed that Wales is investing EU funds to stabilise businesses, help local economies and boost the Welsh labour market.

“We have now invested £1.16bn of the 2014-2020 EU structural funds allocation for Wales, supporting schemes including apprenticeships, the Wales Business Fund, Cardiff University’s Brain Imaging Centre, the Menai Science Park and Deep Green marine energy technology,” Drakeford said.

He added that the investment follows Wales’ success in securing a guarantee from Westminster that it will cover any investments the Welsh government makes into projects which are approved before the UK leaves the EU.

The chancellor, Phillip Hammond, previously said that any EU funding deals should be agreed before last month’s Autumn Statement in order for them to be agreed after Brexit, with schemes following this point needing Treasury approval.

However, Drakeford said that the National Assembly should be able to negotiate directly with Westminster about future regional funding and called for the government to confirm that Wales would still be able to complete any structural and investment projects planned.

“Wales voted to leave the EU but it did not vote to see investment in Wales cut by the UK government,” Drakeford said.

“Wales must not lose a single penny of funding as a result of Brexit. We are negotiating directly with the UK government to ensure devolved policies and funding – such as future regional funding – comes directly to the Welsh government from the EU. There must be no rolling back of devolution.”

Julie Morgan, chair of the Wales Programme Monitoring Committee, added: “It is crucial we work quickly to invest this funding in schemes which meet our programme objectives and we maximise every EU funding opportunity to benefit businesses, communities and people before the UK leaves the EU.”

Morgan pledged to ensure that any programmes started using EU funding are implemented effectively and that they will offer Wales value for money.

“We remain an active part of the EU until the UK leaves and I hope these discussions can inform the debate underway across the EU about the future of EU regional policy, as well as help prepare Wales for a future outside the EU,” she concluded.

(Image: c.  Ben Birchall PA Wire)

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