All guns blazing

I've got an image in my mind that the Welsh European Funding Office will now be like the final frantic days of a regime before it's toppled, with cash flying out of the door for projects around Wales.

In this case there's no invading army, instead there's a Brexit forcing down the doors, and alongside it a dismantling of the EU funding mechanisms that exist across the public sector.

Yes I know it's over the top, and the antithesis of what Brussels bureaucracy is about.

But Andrew Morgan, the leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, would clearly like there to be a dose of regime-change urgency with his call for there to be an "all-guns blazing" approach to EU-funding.

There is still more than £1bn of EU structural funding that is yet to be allocated in Wales between now and 2020.

So what's to stop Wales front-loading £1bn's worth of projects in the first year?

Dying days

The answer is that there are annual limits. So if we take a scenario that Brexit will occur in around two years' time then Wales should be able to get its hands on around half of the money.

I'm told this will inevitably lead to a rush of proposals being thrown into the European funding office mix sooner rather than later, as the Welsh Government, councils and the voluntary sector try to squeeze as much EU cash out of the system in the dying days of our membership.

Andrew Morgan's "all guns-blazing" call prompted a strong response from Leave campaigners, who said Brexit was not a reason to "splash the cash" for the sake of it.

The rhetoric is strong but it gets to the heart of the matter in that the Leave side insist that change presents more opportunities than problems.

We have no idea what Westminster system will replace the regional aid that currently comes from Brussels, but there are fundamental questions to answer.


The obvious opportunity will be to reduce bureaucracy. The big challenge will be to invest it in a way that can be more effective in improving the economy in deprived communities.

Take town centre regeneration. Many high streets in the south Wales valleys in particular now have smart railings, cobbled pavings and benches etc... courtesy of EU funds, and yet a problem is the number of empty units.

In other words, the investment doesn't deal with the fundamental economic problems facing the towns.

There has been a shift in recent years towards large infrastructure projects, and I would expect this to remain the case whoever is designing new schemes.

And that will be one of the central questions in future. There will inevitably be an intense focus on the amount of money Wales receives, but also who is in charge of regional aid?

Will the UK Government take ownership, design the new systems and then leave it to public bodies in Wales to apply for money from Westminster, and then simply be given the job of implementing the projects on the ground.

Or will the Welsh Government be given extra money to design a new system itself using the existing Welsh European Funding Office structure?

Just some of the many post-Brexit questions. I suspect the list will get longer before we start to hear answers.