By Graham Smith
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has pledged that a Labour government would guarantee the level of structural funding Cornwall currently enjoys from the European Union until at least 2028. The promise is worth around £350 million.
Mr McDonnell has been persuaded of the case by Cornwall Parliamentary candidates Paul Farmer and Jennifer Forbes, who hope to become MPs for the Camborne, Hayle and Redruth; and Truro and Falmouth constituencies. Labour came a close second in both last year and needs to win them next time if Jeremy Corbyn is to be Prime Minister with a working majority.
Under current government proposals, with Britain due to crash out of the European Union in March, Cornwall’s EU structural funds have been guaranteed by the Conservatives until only 2020. The Labour proposal maintains the “transitional status” protection that Cornwall would have enjoyed had Britain been staying in Europe.
“The European Union recognises that regions which have historically enjoyed the benefit of structural funds are disadvantaged when that money comes to an end,” said Mr McDonnell. “That’s why the EU provides for a period of transitional status, based on two-thirds of the current funding deal.
“Labour has always said that our way of dealing with Brexit is to ensure that jobs and the economy are protected. Cornwall desperately needs this investment if it is ever to transform its economy and take advantage of the many emerging technologies we are now seeing.
“Projects like geothermal energy, and the Newquay spaceport, have to be approached in the right way. But if they are progressed in ways that genuinely create jobs for local people, then Labour will support them all the way.”
Mr Farmer and Ms Forbes welcomed the news. “We desperately need a government that recognises Cornwall cannot build an economy which relies so heavily on tourism and nursing homes,” said Mr Farmer. “We need to invest in people, and skills, to raise aspirations and wages. I’m delighted that the next Labour Chancellor will make this a priority.”
Ms Forbes said: “John McDonnell’s promise recognises that Tory plans to simply ‘turn off the tap’ will be catastrophic for Cornwall. We need the same transitional protection we would have enjoyed if the referendum result had gone the other way.
“Cornwall might have voted to leave the EU, but nobody voted to be poorer.”
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has promised Jennifer Forbes and Paul Farmer that a post-Brexit Labour government would guarantee Cornwall the same level of investment that would otherwise have come from Europe
She added that the port of Falmouth had long been a beneficiary of EU structural funds but that more work needed to be done. “There would be no university in Falmouth had it not been for Labour securing Objective One funding for Cornwall in 1999,” she said. “We are now moving into an era of high-tech digital employment, in which those areas which cannot modernise will be left behind.
“One of the areas where Cornwall has really benefitted from EU funds has been the roll-out of superfast broadband. But we need more, so that people can work from wherever they want. Only Labour has the vision to see what is necessary and the determination to actually deliver it.”