Well, how about injecting £233m into our local economy since 2014, the largest amount of EU funding our region has ever had. That’s a massive investment in us, our children, and our future.
The EU has, of course, delivered huge benefits to everyone in the UK:
- our economy has transformed from being a basket case to being the 5th largest economy in the world;
- we are less likely to die or be injured at work and we are better protected from ruthless employers;
- our environment and the food we eat are cleaner and safer;
- we talk and cooperate with our European partners rather than go to war with them.
At a more mundane level we can travel freely across Europe, the large mobile phone operators can no longer rip us off with huge roaming charges, and our package holidays are cheaper, easier and better protected, thanks to the EU. In our region, we now have better broadband connectivity and many of our farmers, that would otherwise have gone out of business are still profitable and many have diversified.
Unfortunately there are many people in the country who feel these benefits have passed them by, but that is not the fault of the EU, it is down to failures by successive UK governments to ensure a fair distribution of the nation’s wealth - the rich have got richer while the rest of us have suffered.
In the current EU funding cycle (2014 to 2020) the EU has directed its funding to areas with the highest levels of deprivation and need, with the aim of growing innovation, businesses, skills and employment, and creating jobs. For EU funding purposes we are part of the West Midlands region, and our region has done well compared to other parts of the UK in receiving EU funding. The way the funds, once allocated, are spent is up to us in the UK and is determined by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – in our case the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP.
EU funding has to be matched by local investment, with the EU providing a maximum of 60% of the cost of any project. The total investment value of this EU funding programme for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire is around £233 million. This is money directly injected into our local economy – local business, farms, education, skills and employment. Examples of how this has been of benefit to our local communities can be seen on the Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire LEP web site. All projects are practical, carefully managed investments that have to demonstrate a clear contribution to our region’s LEP goals expressed as 50:50:10 - grow the economy by 50% and generate 50,000 new jobs in the next 10 years. That’s 50,000 new jobs and a 50% bigger local economy thanks to the EU.
If Brexit goes ahead, this EU funding will stop and everyone in our region will pay the price. According to the government's own analysis the West Midlands will be at least 2.5% and up to 13% worse off after Brexit, depending on what form Brexit takes. There is NO Brexit scenario in which our region would be better off!
This is not what we were told by our politicians and campaigners in the referendum campaign. Now that the truth is becoming clearer the only sensible way forward is for us to demand a vote on the final deal, if and when any such deal is finally agreed, BEFORE we leave the EU, including an option to remain in the EU.
If all other options are worse, why would we leave?