Chancellor will 'plug the gap'
Scientists and farmers get post-Brexit funding pledge
Chancellor Philip Hammond’s confirmation that the gap will be filled will provide an early comfort to scientists, farmers and others who have received generous EU lifelines.
Mr Hammond (pictured) said: “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.
“Clearly if we stopped making contributions to the European Union there will be money available to be invested in our own economy.”
His comments came as sources in Westminster said Britain could delay triggering Article 50 to leave the EU because civil servants are still working out how to approach the Brexit negotiations.
It could mean Britain remaining in the EU until the end of 2019.
Prime Minister Theresa May was expected to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty on EU exit in January, setting in motion a two-year negotiation period for Britain and Brussels to hammer out the terms.
But City insiders in close contact with government figures have told The Sunday Times the new ministries for Brexit and International Trade may not be ready in time.
Reacting to Mr Hammond’s statement on funding, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “We welcome Phillip Hammond’s decision to agree with Labour’s calls for EU structural funds to be protected post-Brexit. This will help to give some reassurance to communities and businesses right the way across the UK”.
The government is now under pressure from Labour to ensure Britain remains a member of the European Investment Bank which has provided long-term finance for transport, water and other projects.
Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay was less encouraged by Mr Hammond’s statement and said the announcement “falls far short” of what is needed.
“A limited guarantee for some schemes for a few short years leaves Scotland hundreds of millions of pounds short of what we would receive as members of the EU,” he said.
Mr Hammond’s guarantee was welcomed by a number of organisations representing those in receipt of EU funding and by the employers’ organisation, the British Chambers of Commerce.
Meurig Raymond, the president of the National Farmers’ Unio, said: “I hope that this short-term certainty will help to deliver longer-term confidence and this is exactly what farm businesses need now.”