What has the EU done for us? A guide to how Lancashire benefits from membership and what is next

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More than £18.7m has been granted to projects in Preston by the European Union in the past five years.

According to data from www.myeu.uk, a total of 24 projects in the city have been supported, the smallest single grant £8,939 and the largest £5.8m.

Brexit is looming

Brexit is looming

The biggest benefactor has been the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), which has received a total of £16,268,214 for 14 projects, ranging from an online portal for deaf people, a program to engage businesses in apprenticeships and an Engineering Innovation Centre.

UCLan Deputy Vice-Chancellor Liz Bromley said it would be looking to building on its links with other funding partners post-Brexit.

She said: “UCLan has been highly successful in accessing European funding to increase the range of business support and skills projects in Lancashire, as well funding to enhance our research portfolio.

“However, we aren’t reliant on EU funding and work with a range of partners at national, regional and local levels on other types of funding that will continue post-Brexit.

How the Engineering Innovation Centre at UCLan will look

How the Engineering Innovation Centre at UCLan will look

“For instance, the new Engineering Innovation Centre has received funding from a number of partners including a £5.8million European Regional Development Funding grant, £10million from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and £5million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for infrastructure improvements to STEM teaching in the UK.

“This collaboration with partners is increasingly important as the government is moving towards more ‘place-based’ funding arrangements associated with its UK Industrial Strategy, including the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the Strength in Places Fund.

“The University and its strategic partners are keen to influence the emerging funding arrangements in a way that allows us to build upon our successful track-record of supporting the local area.”

Other EU cash benefactors include the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce for operational assistance and promotional literature, Lancashire Constabulary for developing a framework for community policing, and Westinghouse Electric Company UK, for a project aimed at reviving young people’s interest in careers in the nuclear sector.

Preston Rural North Councillor Stephen Thompson

Preston Rural North Councillor Stephen Thompson

A spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce, which received a total of £49,357 between 2016 and 2017, said: “There are concerns throughout the private and public sector about the loss of EU funding and what it will mean for jobs, investment and regeneration across our area.

“The government plans to create a Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) as a replacement for EU structural funds but the mechanisms around this are far from clear at this stage. Until we know more about the scale and organisation of the SPF it is difficult to predict what impact Brexit will have on current funding streams.

“Perhaps more crucially, it is the social and economic policies of our own Government that will ultimately determine the prosperity of our region, not the outcome of Brexit.”

Vote Leave campaigner, Preston Rural North Councillor Stephen Thompson, said: “At the end of the day, the money spent by the EU in Preston has had to come from Preston in the first place. We are giving more than we are getting back.”

He added: “I don’t think people around here have changed their minds about Brexit, the people I meet are more determined than ever.

“I think at the moment there’s a lot of noise coming from the Remainers and people have forgotten the reasons for leaving.”

In 2017 the UK made an estimated gross contribution (after the rebate) of £13.0 billion.

The UK received £4.1 billion of public sector receipts from the EU, so the UK’s net public sector contribution to the EU was an estimated £8.9 billion.

Exports

Firms in Lancashire export £1.9bn of goods and services to the EU each year, according to government figures.

The business makes up around two-thirds of the county’s total export market of £3bn, says HM Revenue and Customs.

And 40 per cent of goods exported are chemicals, with machinery and transport accounting for a further 26 per cent and manufactured goods 14 per cent.

The figures are included in a report presented to Lancashire County Council by its director of commissioning last September detailing the implications for the authority of Britain’s departure from the EU.

Across the North West as a whole reserach by Lloyds Bank shows that the number of the region’s exporters who expect their ability to compete in international markets has fallen by 10 per cent in the past six months - down from 58 per cent to 48 per cent.

Almost a quarter (24 per cent) expect trading with the US to bring the biggest opportunities over the next six months.

Worryingly 16 per cent of North West exporters - around one in six - say they still haven’t reviewed their trading plans more than two years after the referendum and just seven months before we depart.

“We have to recognise that the Brexit negotiations can affect how businesses are feeling and this can change,” said Martyn Kendrick, regional director for Lloyds Bank Commerical Banking.

“However, while the ongoing negotiations around the UK’s departure from the EU and its potential impact are an important point on most businesses’ agendas, it’s maybe a cause for concern that 16 per cent of North West exproters may not have reviewed their own strategy since the referendum.

“It may be difficult to plan while there is uncertainty over the nature of the UK’s departure, but there is little doubt that businesses will face some degree of change in the months and years ahead. All exporters should be taking proactive measures in the interim to prepare for that.”

Farming after Brexit

Farmers in Lancashire could be amongst the hardest hit by Brexit.

And the industry has called on the Government to protect the people who feed Britain if we leave with no deal in March.

The county’s sheep sector and market garden growers are most at risk from potentially high export tariffs and a growing shortage of migrant workers.

“It is vital that a transitional agreement is in place if no deal is achieved by the time we leave the EU to ensure there is a smooth Brexit for all industries,” said Carl Hudspith, a spokesman for the National Farmers’ Union in Lancashire.

“As our biggest trading partner, it is vital for British food production that the Government establish a close trading relationship with the EU that maintains tariff-free and frictionless trade in agricultural goods.

“The EU is UK agriculture’s biggest trading partner, with 70 per cent of our goods being sent there. Some sectors are incredibly dependent on trade with the EU, such as the sheep sector, which sends 30 per cent of domestic production to the EU and could be faced with extremely high and detrimental tariffs if no deal is agreed.

“Any trade deal must ensure that British farming is profitable, productive and progressive for the future so we can continue to provide food to the British public. It is crucial that any future trade deals do not serve to allow sub-standard food imports which undermine the high standards that British farmers are proud to produce food to.”

The NFU has been working hard on Brexit since the nation voted to leave two years ago. The union has its own Brexit team to look after the interests of farmers.

Recfent figures show the UK is only 60 per cent self-sufficient in food and exports £13.8bn worth of food and drink every year.

With West Lancashire now regarded as “the salad bowl” of Britain, growers are keen to make sure the flow of seasonal workers to pick produce does not get any worse under Brexit than it already is.

Dwindling numbers of migrant staff since the referendum vote was announced have led to intense competition amongst farmers, with incentive schemes being used to win the contest for workers.

“Our growers in West Lancashire need clear commitment from Government that they will have access to a competent and reliable workforce, both now and post-Brexit, in order to avoid severe disruption to the supply chain,” said Carl Hudspith.

“Government need to take action to mitigate the continued fall in seasonal workers for 2018 and 2019, provide clarity on the status of EU nationals working in the UK and set out its preferred approach to a new immigration system as soon as possible.

“Any immigration system must reflect the needs of the UK farming industry as the bedrock of the UK’s food and drink industry, which is worth £109bn to the economy and provides jobs for 3.8m people.

“The horticulture sector alone requires between 75,000 and 80,000 job roles a year to plant, pick and pack over 300 different types of fruit and veg.”