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Analysis

PM’s towns fund drop in ocean compared to cost of Brexit

by Luke Lythgoe | 04.03.2019

The government has freed up £1.6 billion over the next seven years to fund left-behind towns, mainly in Labour-voting areas in the North and Midlands which backed Leave in 2016. While such funding is essential for bringing our country back together, this looks like a cynical bribe to woo wavering Labour MPs into backing Theresa May’s deal. What’s more, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the cost of Brexit.

Only £1 billion of the money will be allocated via a “needs-based” formula meaning up to £600 million could be allocated at ministerial discretion – leading to suspicions the money could be spent not to deliver economic improvement but to secure the passage of the government’s Brexit plan.

Those Labour politicians being targeted aren’t daft, and the government’s bluff has been called. Wigan MP Lisa Nandy told The Times that the amount showed the government was “not serious” about helping communities. Gareth Snell, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, said “there is no price on my vote” and highlighted the fact that the £212 million going to the West Midlands was less than the amount cut from Stoke council’s budget in the last nine years due to austerity policies.

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In any case the money is substantially less than funding that the government’s own forecasts show will be lost to local economies as a result of Brexit. Independent analysis has shown the UK would be £100 billion worse off every year in a decade’s time than we would have been if we’d stayed in the EU.

The People’s Vote campaign has also done further analysis specifically into the 36 constituencies of opposition MPs being targeted by the government. In these seats alone, the cost of the government’s Brexit plans will be an estimated £1.1 billion annually.

It makes the chancellor’s claims of a “Brexit deal dividend” if May’s deal is passed look like a bad joke. The real dividend will come if we stay in the EU. CommonGround has already made some interesting proposals on how this money could actually be used to tackle inequality in our country.

So backing the government’s Brexit deal isn’t the best way for Labour MPs to make their constituents better off. But another of their concerns is that potential voters in seats which voted Leave will abandon Labour if the party backs a People’s Vote. New polling has shown this couldn’t be further from the truth.

No less than 75% of Labour voters in the party’s North and Midlands heartlands who expressed an opinion said they supported the party’s policy of backing a People’s Vote. What’s more, just 14% said they wanted their MP to back the proposed terms for leaving the EU.

If there is a new vote on Brexit, Labour’s heartland voters would support staying in the EU by 76% to 24%. That margin of victory would rise even higher – 81% versus 19% – if the choice on the ballot paper is between staying in the EU or leaving with Theresa May’s deal.

Many of those Labour voters are expected to make the journey to London for the  Put It To The People march on March 23, joining crowds from every region and nation of the UK, of all political parties and none. Rather than mulling over the prime minister’s bad deal, Labour MPs should join in demanding the final decision on Brexit be given to the people.

2 Responses to “PM’s towns fund drop in ocean compared to cost of Brexit”

  • This is nothing short of shameless bribery. I cannot remember these sort of initiatives being announced outside of a budget or a General election so the timing gives the game away. I would be sacked for it, but its OK for HM Government. What makes it even more galling that its Tax-payers money, so it really amounts to a big fat £0 cost the architects of austerity anyway. Hopefully no Labour MP will fall for this sort of skull doggery.

  • Mrs May bribed the DUP with £1bn – about £535 for each inhabitant of Northern Ireland – and they bought it.
    She is offering the people of England an average bribe of about £18 each – £21 if you leave out the Londoners who probably rightly get nothing; but even the North East and the North West only get £39 each.
    On the basis that 1 English is worth 1 Northen Irish the bribe should be about £25bn.

    Tell her where to stick it