YORKSHIRE WILL be better off if Britain votes to leave the European Union despite the loss of millions of pounds of funding from Brussels, a senior Leave campaign figure has pledged.
Michael Gove dismissed the idea that the £600m of EU cash which will be pumped into Yorkshire over the next five years could help persuade voters in the region to vote Remain.
The Justice Secretary was in Leeds representing Vote Leave which has put the issue of Britain’s financial contribution to the EU at the heart of its referendum campaign.
Yorkshire has historically been a major recipient of cash from EU funds designed to help parts of Europe with less prosperous economies.
Asked if he could guarantee Yorkshire would not be worse off outside the EU, Mr Gove said: “I think it will be better off.
“The first thing is that whatever money we get back at the moment, whether it is through the rebate or through regional spending, for every pound we get back we’ve given two to the European Union, so we are down on the deal.
“The second thing is that Yorkshire has great manufacturing companies and great financial services organisations as well and both of them would benefit from the opening up of trade with other countries leaving the European Union would enable us to do.
“Iceland has got a trade deal with China, the European Union doesn’t. Iceland, broadly, has a similar population to Leeds so if we left the European Union we would be in a position to forge those sorts of trade deals and benefit.”
In the last EU spending round Yorkshire received around £145 per head from funds designed to help boost the economy.
But in the current round, which runs from 2014 until 2020, that has fallen to around £114 per head as the amount given to other parts of the UK rises.
Remain supporters have made the case that EU cash is a reliable source of funding for Yorkshire that is independent of Government decisions taken in Whitehall.
But the Leave campaign hopes that the falling sums heading to areas such as Yorkshire will make it to convince voters of the merits of cutting ties with Brussels.
Mr Gove said: “The argument in a way I think is much more about control. Obviously the sums matter but some of the money Yorkshire currently gets back from the EU, it might not in the future.
“Ultimately, if we have control of the hundreds of millions that go to the European Union then we can ensure they are spent and invested in health, infrastructure, farming and universities and science but in accordance with our priorities.
“I think the argument resonates, even in those parts of the country, like Northern Ireland and Wales as well, which get slightly more per head than the average from the EU.
“Ultimately it is our money that we give to the European Union, some of which we get back. I think the basic principle that you spend money better if you have control of it rather than if you have someone spend it on your behalf does resonate.”
Mr Gove was speaking after taking part in an event at supermarket chain Asda’s Leeds headquarters.
He spent an hour fielding questions from Asda staff on EU referendum issues including the economy, immigraton and sovereignty.