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I hold regular discussions with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and other Cabinet colleagues about our exit from the EU, including on the Euopean Union (Withdrawal) Bill. My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State and I recently met local government leaders in Wales to discuss the issues that affect them as we leave the European Union.
In the run-up to the referendum, voters were assured by the leave campaign that Wales would not be one penny worse off as a result of leaving the EU. Will the Secretary of State assure the House that the benefits of EU structural and investment funds in Wales will continue after March 2019?
We have already undertaken to honour the commitments made on EU structural funds until we leave the European Union, and we are seeking an implementation period that may well also involve such commitments. We have a manifesto commitment to create a UK shared prosperity fund, and I will ensure that Wales has its fair share.
The fact that this imperialist UK Government have excluded the Welsh Government from Brexit is putting at risk the devolution that has lasted for 20 years. The Welsh Government have always played an integral part in EU negotiations. Will the Secretary of State commit himself to continuing that well-established practice and avoid a constitutional crisis by ensuring that the Welsh Government are directly involved in both Brexit and trade negotiations?
I do not accept the tone or the content of what the hon. Lady says. It should be recognised that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is largely technical, but we are deeply engaged with the devolved Administrations, particularly the Welsh Government. Only a week or so ago, the First Secretary of State and I met the First Minister, and yesterday we had a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee—in which a further ongoing warm relationship was developing—with the aim of securing the right deal that works for every part of the United Kingdom. It is, of course, in my and the Welsh Government’s interest to ensure that Wales is well represented.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there is good news today about jobs and the performance of the economy? Does he agree that we can look forward to the strength that Wales will be able to gain when the UK has left the European Union and can reach out to the whole world when it comes to improving the economy?
My hon. Friend rightly points out that leaving the European Union provides new opportunities. We want a frictionless trading arrangement with the EU so that we can negotiate trade deals with other nations around the world. Since the referendum vote, Wales has attracted some of the most remarkable inward investment projects, and we are continuing on that basis.
Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to remind Welsh Government Ministers, or indeed Opposition Members, that more than 850,000 people across Wales voted to leave the European Union on a turnout of over 70%? The most important thing is to respect the referendum result, get on with governing Wales, and look forward to the future.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that important point. He recognises that Wales voted to leave the European Union, as did the UK, and that we have an obligation to respond properly to that result while also respecting the constitutional settlement. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill does that, but we are working closely with the Welsh Government to ensure that it meets Wales’s needs.
The Secretary of State has already been quizzed about the effect on the Welsh economy of the loss of European structural funds. May I ask him specifically whether the Government’s flagship growth deals will result in similar or even greater funding for the four growth and city deal areas of Wales?
I do not need to take any lectures on funding from the Labour party, which refused to reorganise the Barnett formula during its 13 years in government. The new fiscal framework that was signed this time last year enhances the Welsh settlement; furthermore, the growth deals are in addition to the enhanced Barnett settlement. I remind the House that over the last 16 years more than £4 billion of European structural funds has been spent, and that the greatest number of people voted to leave in the areas where the most money was spent. That hardly suggests that the Welsh Government’s policy is successful.