EU Referendum

Welsh EU funds 'not guaranteed', says Priti Patel

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Media captionPriti Patel claims Wales could lose EU funds as poorer nations join the union

Welsh EU funds could end after 2020 even if the UK stays in the union, Tory minister Priti Patel has suggested.

The Vote Leave campaigner said with more countries looking to join the bloc, cuts to aid cash "look certain".

But Labour MP Stephen Doughty said no UK region benefits from the EU like Wales does and there was no reason that would change.

Wales is pegged to receive £1.8bn in EU structural funds over a scheme stretching from 2014 to 2020.

Structural funds are provided to poorer parts of the EU to boost economic growth - with the bulk in Wales going to the West Wales and Valleys region.

High demands

Prime Minister David Cameron previously said the UK government could not guarantee making up any shortfall in the EU aid Wales receives if Britain was to leave the union.

But writing on the Institute of Welsh Affairs website, Click on Wales, Ms Patel said there was "no guarantee that these EU branded funds will continue beyond 2020".

She said the government "cannot give any indication of what the funding levels will be and if they will exist at all".

The UK government employment minister added: "With high demands on resources from other parts of the EU and from countries like Turkey that are looking to join the EU, Wales and the UK look certain to see further reductions in these funds beyond 2020.

"EU planned deep cuts before and will do so again. The only way to prevent this from happening and to give the governments in Cardiff and Whitehall free choice how to spend this money is to vote to take back control and leave the EU."

She said the European Commission previously sought cuts on structural aid "in the region of 27%", and despite the UK government reallocating cash, the West Wales and the Valleys EU region "still faces a 16% cut".

Ms Patel, who was visiting Cardiff on Monday, said families and businesses in Wales have "nearly £650m a year to pay towards the UK's membership fee".

Image caption Stephen Doughty said Wales benefits more from EU membership than any other part of the UK

However pro-EU Labour MP Stephen Doughty said Wales' share of the UK's contribution to the EU was about £486m (€630m) a year, while Wales received between £504m and £577m (€653m and €747m) in EU investment.

"The fact is that no other part of the UK benefits as much from EU membership as Wales does and there is no real reason for us to believe that will change," he said.

"We have a veto on Turkey joining the EU - a prospect even Boris Johnson has admitted is not on the cards - so there is no prospect of that effecting the funding for Wales.

"Wales has guaranteed benefits of staying in Europe - you cannot say the same about Vote Leave's leap into the dark."

A spokesman for Britain Stronger in Europe said he did not recognise the 16% structural funds cut figure.

He said EU funding had remained constant between the 2007-2013 and 2014-2020 funding periods.

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Media captionPro-EU MP Alan Johnson denies spreading fear by warning of Brexit risk to jobs and prosperity

Meanwhile senior Labour figures - including former Home Secretary Alan Johnson - have been campaigning in Merthyr Tydfil in favour of remaining in the EU.

Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones stressed the benefits to people and businesses in Wales from free trade with European Union countries.

"Almost 600 firms export around £6bn worth of goods to the EU supporting 100,000 Welsh jobs," he said.

"Employers like Tata, Airbus and Ford are clear that Britain's role in the EU is important for them and their UK operations.

"The reality is that there are many different companies in Wales who are here because it's their European base. If we can't act as their European base they'll go elsewhere."

The Welsh Local Government Association - which represents local councils - has also voiced its support for support for continued membership of the EU, citing access to funding as one of the key benefits.

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