Every pound of European Union (EU) funding spent in Britain is to undergo a “national interest” test to see whether it should be continued from the national purse following Britain’s exit from the EU, a government minister has said.
A number of industries, including farming and scientific research, currently rely heavily on EU subsidies, raising fears within those industries that they may see the funding cut when Britain leaves the EU.
But although the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, has pledged to match the funding from the net £8.5 billion of EU contributions which will be saved by not being within the bloc, David Gauke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has warned that other lines of EU spending such as arts grants will be tested to ensure that they are value for money
In a letter to David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, and seen by the Telegraph, Mr Gauke said: “Naturally, we will need to address the future of all programmes that are currently EU-funded, once we have left the EU. Leaving the EU means we will want to take our own decisions about how to deliver the policy objectives previously targeted by EU funding.
“Over the coming months, we will consult closely with stakeholders to review all EU funding schemes in the round, to ensure that any ongoing funding commitments best serve the UK‘s national interest, while ensuring appropriate investor certainty.”
The policy also puts funding for infrastructure projects and energy projects potentially in the firing line.
EU funding was a key battle ground during the referendum campaign, with prominent Remain campaigners warning that leaving the EU could spell the end of generous grants to certain sectors. A report released in the run up to the referendum claimed that 90 percent of farming businesses would be wiped out thanks to the loss of subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy, while the Lords science committee suggested that Britain’s science industry stood to lose hundreds of millions of pounds of funding in the event of Brexit.
However, the government has now committed to plugging the funding gap until at least 2020, while Mr Hammond has said that he wants to give people “reassurance… stability and certainty” by honouring EU funding worth more than £4billion a year.
Speaking last week, Mr Hammond said: “The UK will continue to have the all of the rights, obligations and benefits that membership brings, including receiving European funding, up until the point we leave the EU.
“We recognise that many organisations across the UK which are in receipt of EU funding, or expect to start receiving funding, want reassurance about the flow of funding they will receive.
“That’s why I am confirming that structural and investment funds projects signed before the Autumn Statement and Horizon research funding granted before we leave the EU will be guaranteed by the Treasury after we leave.”