THE decision by the North’s metro mayors to present an united front over the future of the economy is significant for two reasons which are fundamental to the area’s future prosperity – Brexit and devolution.
First Brexit. This region’s industrial heartlands have previously been beneficiaries of EU regeneration funds because of their ‘deprived’ status. Yet, while the Government says money currently spent to Brussels will still be spent on such schemes, no specifics have been forthcoming about the proposed Shared Prosperity Fund – hence fears this money will be reallocated if Britain’s exit from the European Union proves more disruptive to the wider economy than envisaged during the 2016 referendum.
Next devolution. Though Sheffield City Region is represented by Labour’s Dan Jarvis and the very north of this county is being championed by Ben Houchen, the Tory mayor for the Tees Valley, a collective of industrialists and civil society leaders are effectively speaking for the rest of Yorkshire. Talented and well-meaning individuals, they do not have the political clout – and influence – now enjoyed by metro mayors.
Both issues are therefore intertwined, hence Mr Houchen’s desire, in an article for today’s newspaper, for Yorkshire to reconcile its devolution differences once and for all so the whole of the North can press for fairer funding from a Government whose outlook is far too London-centric for its own good.
With financial analysts saying devolution is estimated to be worth up to £30bn a year to Yorkshire’s economy if exports and business opportunities meet the national average, it’s even more important that this region does more to shape its own future. To use Brexit parlance, it’s called taking back control and is paramount if this region is to withstand the likely economic turbulence as the country leaves the EU.