Rural councils seek 'urgent' reassurance on Brexit

RURAL local authorities are seeking assurances that they won't be worse off after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Rural people voted to leave the European Union in greater numbers than the national average, according to an analysis by the Country Land and Business Association.

The larger than average rural 'leave' vote came despite the fact that the UK's rural areas and agriculture receive billions of euros in EU support.

UK farmers received almost €3.1bn (£2.4bn) in direct payments in 2015. In addition, some £4bn has been allocated to the UK for rural development projects from 2014-2020.

A total of 55.3% of voters from local authorities classified as 'rural' by the Office of National Statistics supported the vote to leave, said the CLA.

The figure compares with with 51.9% of voters nationally who favoured leaving the trading bloc and 48.1% nationally who voted to remain.

In Wales, 52.5% voted leave, compared with 47.5% who supported remain. Scotland voted in favour of the UK staying in the EU by 62% to 38%.

Voter turnout was exceptionally high with 72% of UK voters casting their ballot.

Rural impact

The CLA said any change to the UK’s relationship with the EU would impact the rural economy and management of the rural environment and landscape.

The rural economy had been shaped by the agricultural and environmental policies of the EU for more than 40 years, it added.

The EU provided the regulatory framework that governed the rural environment, trading relationships and the way businesses and agriculture operated.

Rural local authorities have already called for immediate assurances that their funding will not be reduced as a result of Brexit.

“Urgent confirmation” is being sought by Cornwall Council from ministers that the county would not be worse off in terms of the investment it received.

Cornwall has received significant amounts of funding from the EU over the past 15 years because of the county's relatively weak economy, compared to the rest of Europe,

Cornwall Council leader John Pollard said he would be seeking confirmation that this allocation – based on need – would continue in the future.

“Now that we know the UK will be leaving the EU we will be taking urgent steps to ensure that the UK Government protects Cornwall’s position in any negotiations.

“We will be insisting that Cornwall receives investment equal to that provided by the EU programme which has averaged £60m per year over the last ten years.”

Local government

The Local Government Association said councils in England needed a seat around the table when decisions are taken over how to replace EU laws as part of the UK's exit negotiations.

It added: “It is vital that local government is part of the team.”

EU laws and regulations impacted on many council services, such as waste, employment, health and safety, consumer protection and trading and environmental standards.

“There cannot be an assumption that power over these services is simply transferred from Brussels to Westminster,” said an LGA statement.

“If services are delivered locally, then the power over how to run them should rest locally too.

“Decades of centralised control over funding and services has distanced our residents from the decisions that affect their everyday lives.

“With greater control in our areas we can improve services and save money.”

Communities in England have been allocated £5.3bn of EU regeneration funding up to 2020, said the LGA.

“It is important for the government to guarantee it will protect this vital funding to avoid essential growth-boosting projects stalling and local economies across England being stifled.

“The LGA will continue to represent the interests of English councils in Brussels as the UK's exit from the EU is negotiated.”


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