Brokenshire refuses to give EU replacement fund figures

8 Apr 19

Communities secretary James Brokenshire rebuffed calls to give details on EU replacement funding when pressed in the House of Commons today.

Brokenshire refused to say whether the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – which will replace EU structural funds - would be equal to current arrangements with the EU, when questioned by MPs. 

Shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne asked what levels of funding deprived communities could expect.

Gwynne asked: “So can he now, without any spin and bluster, confirm to the House of Commons whether or not the most deprived communities in England will see a pound for pound less, equal or greater funding share form the Shared Prosperity Fund – the replacement for the European structural development funds?”

Brokenshire refused to give any information about UKSPF funding levels or allocations, and suggested that these would be made available in this year’s Spending Review.

In the Spring Statement last month, the chancellor said a three-year Spending Review would be announced before the summer recess, so long as a European Union exit deal was agreed on. The UK has still not agreed a Brexit deal, or left the EU.

“I look forward to consulting on [the UKSPF] in detail, and it will be those allocations that will be set out in the Spending Review,” Brokenshire said.

The government originally planned to release a consultation on the UKSPF in December 2018. It has still not drawn up the consultation.

The minister also faced questions on how the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government was helping electoral staff prepare for European elections.

The Cabinet last week advised returning officers to prepare for EU elections.

David Lidington, secretary of state for the Cabinet Office, wrote to the Electoral Commission last Monday telling returning officers the government would fit the bill for these preparations.  

“The chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster [Lidington] has been in contact with the electoral in relation to those preparations but I do hope that we will be able to avoid European elections,” Brokenshire told the Commons.

Lidington’s letter said: “The opportunity to guarantee that the UK would not participate in the EP elections has been removed.

“Cabinet Office is therefore confirming that returning officers will be reimbursed in the usual way for any expenditures on activity that is necessarily undertaken, at this stage and in the coming weeks, to prepare for the possibility of EP elections on Thursday 23 May 2019.”

The UK had been due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. The leaving date had been delayed until this Friday but the prime minister is currently looking at asking the EU for another extension, which would mean the UK would have to participate in the European elections.

Brokenshire’s response to the Commons comes after a select committee report last week called on the government to “urgently advance” its plan for the UKSPF. 

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