Being a dedicated ‘Cornwall-phile’, as a friend from Newlyn recently described me, means that one of my prime considerations in the present EU membership debate is how potentially leaving the Union would impact on Cornwall and the funding that the EU has given to the territory. However, being a Cornwall-phile some 300 miles outside of the territory makes it challenging to keep up with the views on this funding matter on both sides of the argument.
Therefore, I was interested to read a piece online by Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole over Easter. As expected, Cole seems to have come out in favour of remaining. He points to arguments made by those backing departure from the EU, who claim that “Cornwall would receive additional monies from central government to make up for the investment that would otherwise be lost to Cornwall, its institutions and local businesses.” Given the government’s present financial travails, pardon me if I refuse to believe that argument!
Cole rightly says that, as a result of the most recent shambolic Conservative budget, “Cornwall would receive much less investment than elsewhere with, for example, additional money being pledged for London’s Crossrail 2 project which could cost up to £32 billion”
He also states that, as yet there does not appear to be any guaranteed funding from government to replace the money that the EU has put into Cornwall. Indeed, the agenda for this weekend’s Spring Conference at County Hall has an amendment stating “MK recognises that Cornwall has been a net beneficiary of the EU in terms of structural funding, which has provided significant and much-needed investment for local businesses – both large and small – and ensured that numerous key projects, such as the university and superfast broadband, have been brought to fruition. MK further recognises that if the UK did leave the EU, the British Government would inevitably fail to replace the lost investment.”
Objective One funding from the EU has seen, according to party statistics, £765,000,000 invested in Cornwall, with £10,100,000 being spent in infrastructure and over 21,000 training opportunities created. Whilst there is no doubt that EU membership does contain negative aspects, I would argue that those wanting to leave the EU would need to come up with cast iron funding guarantees in order to persuade me that anything other than remaining in would be damaging for Cornwall.