6th July 2017
By Graham Smith
Cornwall could face an uphill struggle to win funding from central government, once Britain leaves the European Union, according to a new set of economic data which shows that Cornwall is not as poor as previously thought.
For 20 years Cornwall has benefitted from European Union funding worth more than £1 billion – still equivalent to £800 per person for the period 2014-2020, when the current round is due to end.
But the formula used to calculate where, in Europe, this money should be spent as now been revised – taking a more considered view of Gross Domestic Product. A region has to score 75% or less of the EU average to be considered in need of assistance.
The new approach shows that Cornwall was never poor enough to qualify for EU funding. And after Brexit, in 2019, Cornwall will have to rely on the view taken by central government in Westminster, rather than Brussels, for further financial help.
The latest set of EU statistics show that only the North East of England, and West Wales and the Valleys, would continue to qualify. The Tees Valley and Durham currently scores 74% of the EU average and West Wales and the Valleys scores 68%. Cornwall is currently on 76% and in some years has scored as high as 90%.
The new data show that Cornwall is still behind many other parts of the UK – Devon currently scores 85%, while wealthy West London scores 593%.
The revised assessment of GDP could help explain why Cornwall voted strongly in favour of leaving the European Union in last year’s referendum. Over the past 20 years, the county’s economy has shifted significantly towards one which depends on relatively wealthy retirees, rather than younger people seeking a more prosperous world of employment or education.
Cornwall still lags behind many other parts of the UK, but is not poor enough to qualify for European funds
The EU structural funds have helped create several eye-catching projects, such as Falmouth University and Newquay Airport, but Euro-sceptic critics say that few people believe the funding has helped them personally.
In 2000-13 the European Union ploughed £750m into Cornwall. The money went towards things like improving internet connections and transport. But an official report found that £200,000 of investment was required to create a single additional job in “research and development.” The value of some projects has left much to be desired.
North Cornwall MP Scott Mann told BBC Radio Cornwall today that he and Cornwall’s other Conservative MPs would fight for government funding. “These statistics often misrepresent rural areas,” said Mr Mann. “We believe that the UK’s own government is better placed to understand how money should be spent.”
Former Labour MP Candy Atherton, who was among those who led the campaign to win EU funding in the late 1990s, said she would continue to press for government support, saying that there were still significant areas of poverty and deprivation in Cornwall, and that the economy continued to be highly seasonal and dependent on tourism.