The government must firm up plans for rural funding post-Brexit so that Cornwall can plan for a major investment shortfall.
I met with officials and local businesses on Friday to discuss their concerns over Brexit, including the loss of substantial EU funding and investment and access to European markets.
Access to the rest of the UK, be it physical or digital, is crucial for Cornwall’s economy to thrive. And being a rural and coastal community, Cornwall is also at the sharp end when it comes to climate change – the cancellation of Boardmasters and recent flood and storm damage are clear examples of how we have to be ready for more disruptive weather events.
On my visit, I heard about fears from local businesses for the Cornish economy, jobs and the environment if Brexit happens on October 31st, including concerns that EU investment would not be fully replaced by the Government’s own Shared Prosperity Fund. These concerns were recently expressed in a Joint Statement to the Government from the leaders of Cornwall and other parts of the UK.
I’m glad to see that Cornwall Council has voted to support a people’s vote on the Brexit deal. While not everyone’s ideal scenario, the Liberal Democrats do believe this is the best way to resolve the Brexit crisis. People were duped. They were fobbed off with hollow promises and the result is a region that will see the tap cut off for funding to vital social programmes, employment programmes and infrastructure – all of which have improved the quality of life for thousands across the peninsula.
I visited Trewithien Dairy in Lostwithiel, which received a £6m grant from the EU’s Rural Development programme in 2010, matched by private sector funding. This allowed the dairy to dramatically increase production – it now boasts an annual turnover of £50 million and employs 200 staff. Voaden also met with representatives of Superfast Broadband, to praise the rollout of the scheme which has received over £50m in EU funds, improving productivity and connectivity for thousands of businesses.
There is no indication that the Government will match these investments. These kinds of opportunities will disappear if Brexit happens, especially in the
event of No Deal. We must stop Brexit before it causes irreversible damage to the future development of our precious counties.