European Commissioner warning to North East on EU exit

Johannes Hahn EU regional policy commissioner Johannes Hahn says grants have helped create thousands of jobs

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A European Union commissioner has warned that if the UK were to leave the EU, the North East of England could be hit harder than other parts of the country.

Regional policy commissioner Johannes Hahn told BBC's Sunday Politics that less developed regions like the North East would be likely to suffer more if Britain was outside the EU.

He also defended the EU's record, saying grant aid had created or safeguarded more than 22,000 jobs in the region.

European aid

Start Quote

Johannes Hahn

The lesser-developed regions have an interest to be part of Europe because you can benefit from the strength of being in a big family”

End Quote Johannes Hahn EU regional policy commissioner

The North East has received hundreds of millions of pounds in European aid - or structural funds - because its economy is less developed than other parts of the UK and Europe.

The region received more than £500m between 2008 and 2013, and another £600m will arrive over the next six years. In the UK, only Cornwall gets more per head of population.

UKIP argues the funds are just our own money coming back to us through the filter of Brussels bureaucrats.

It believes there would be more money available if the UK left the EU and retained the funds it currently contributes.

But Mr Hahn says UKIP should talk to the regional politicians who appreciate support from the EU. He says they welcome the certainty that's not always on offer from their national governments.

"I know the representatives of regions across Europe are in favour of the funds because it means they are guaranteed to receive European money for regional development," he said.

"The real value is that it is money provided for seven years. That's completely different from national budgets which are sometimes only made available for one or perhaps two years."

Single market
European Union flag The European Union provides structural funds to help the economies of less-developed regions

Commissioner Hahn also warned of the dangers of leaving the EU, and its single market.

He said: "It is not just about structural funds it is also about access to the European market. If the UK leaves it would also be outside the single market and that is something that would have to be taken into account.

"There are many consequences and that would have to be discussed by the British public, to balance the pros and cons, and afterwards they would have to decide."

Start Quote

Jonathan Arnott

Of course the regions need support, but it would be more efficient for us to spend our own money”

End Quote Jonathan Arnott UKIP candidate, North East

The commissioner also said it was in Britain's interests to see some of its money used to develop poorer EU members.

He said: "Additional members in particular from the former communist countries are a big market opportunity for Great Britain and its companies.

"These are the emerging markets of Europe. There are still significant increases of welfare possible, people can consume more if they get the right support and that could help British jobs."

EU membership

But UKIP has taken issue with Commissioner Hahn.

North East European election candidate Jonathan Arnott said: "I would ask the question, would you spend £20 to get a £10 shopping voucher. The European Union expects us to be grateful for that £10 voucher.

"Of course the regions need support, but it would be more efficient for us to spend our own money.

"I also do not see that UK taxpayers' money should be spent on developing the economies of Eastern Europe."

Richard Moss Article written by Richard Moss Richard Moss Political editor, North East & Cumbria

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  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    @ 29 - 'I am not a racist'. No, you're not, just like millions of working people on benefits in this country aren't scroungers. Why do 'ordinary' people believe the worst in each other? Could it be they listen to snake oil salesmen like Nigel Farage and not to each other?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    @17 - That's an interesting phenomenon you have there. I've been a voter and an observer of politics for 30 years and in all that time I have never seen the rich get poorer.

    What I have seen, especially these last few years, is spite and either an inability or an unwillingness to share. Perhaps that's where your waters are getting muddied.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    As a Northumbrian, I feel it is time that we had a say on being in Europe, regardless of how it affects the north. The people of the North East aren't fools; we can decide for ourselves.

    As it is, the European Commissioners have a vested interest in keeping the UK in the EU, as it is a net contributor.

    Sooner the people of the UK have a say, the better off we will all be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    For over a month polling cards have sat on my desk, only in the past week have flyers started to appear so i now know who represents the NE
    but since the last election i have heard very very little from these people
    in or out? we should renegotiate it is our right as a net contributor and i think we will suceed as the subject so far has caused others to be very vocal about it. out ? no

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    N032 Kilgore,

    ' we pay for it'

    More tabloid trash.

    As members of the EU the UK will make a contribution to the 'structural funds'.

    The allocation of the 'funds' will be in accordance with existing procedures.

    As important members of the EU, the UK will have played a part in drawing up the rules - along with all other members.


Comments 5 of 37



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