A SENIOR minister has admitted money from the European Union is “vital” to Yorkshire as Prime Minister Theresa May comes under growing pressure to flesh out the Government’s Brexit plans.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke acknowledged June’s referendum decision to leave the European Union had caused “uncertainty” for organisations in the region dependent on Brussels cash.
Yorkshire was due to receive around £661m in so-called “structural funds” to help grow the region’s economy in the current EU funding round which runs until 2020.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has promised projects awarded EU cash before the autumn statement later this year will have that money guaranteed by the Treasury.
However, it remains unclear what will happen to EU money that has not been allocated to projects by the autumn statement, raising fears the region could lose out on millions of pounds of investment.
Senior Leave campaigners now in Government, including Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, promised during the referendum campaign that Yorkshire would not lose out financially from leaving the EU.
In a letter to Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, who had called on the Government to guarantee the £174m promised to the Sheffield City Region which includes South Yorkshire, Mr Gauke wrote: “The Government understands the vital importance of current EU funding to South Yorkshire.
“We will do everything necessary to maintain a stable investment environment.”
Mrs May is expected to be quizzed further about the Government’s approach to Britain’s departure from the EU when she faces MPs in the Commons today amid growing accusations the Government has no clear plan three months on from the referendum.
Having ruled out introducing a points-based immigration system after Brexit during her trip to the G20 summit in China, Downing Street was yesterday forced to respond to reports the Government wanted to introduce work permits that would force EU nationals to secure a job before coming to the UK.
The Government has refused to give an unconditional guarantee all EU citizens will be allowed to remain in the UK once Britain leaves.
However, ministers have insisted a question over the status will only arise if the position of UK nationals in Europe is questioned.
Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill yesterday confirmed the Government had not decided yet on the cut-off date which would apply to EU nationals who had come to the UK and would be allowed to stay.
The Scarborough MP was forced to admit the Government would not be able to identify and deport all EU citizens even if it wanted to do so.
However Mr Goodwill argued the question was unlikely to arise.
He said: “It would not be in the negotiating objective of the UK to remove people living and working here making a contribution to our health service, to agriculture, to all the other areas that they do.
“Neither I suspect would it be a negotiating objective of our European partners to send a load of British pensioners back from Spain.”
In further confusion over the Government’s approach, Downing Street yesterday distanced the Prime Minster from Brexit Secretary David Davis’s assertion that it was “improbable” the UK could retain access to the single market will taking control of its borders.
Asked if Mrs May agreed with his analysis, the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said: “All of this is going to have to be negotiated with our European partners, but we should go after the best deal we can.”