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It is an absolute pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh. I congratulate Paul Blomfield on securing this debate, which is important to my constituency of South East Cornwall as we prepare to leave the EU and seize the growth and trade opportunities that Brexit offers. I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution and am pleased to see that my hon. Friend the Minister will respond.
Cornwall may be a beautiful county of beaches, moorland and communities, but it lags behind the UK on many economic indicators. Its rurality is a blessing, but it puts a brake on growth and prosperity. We are closing the gap with other regions and nations, but we need to maintain that progress. European structural and investment funds have undoubtedly helped to boost the Cornish economy, creating jobs and boosting skills, higher education and inclusion. Better connectivity has also been a benefit. Just over 90% of my constituency now has access to superfast broadband, which is excellent news, but there is still work to be done for the remaining 10%. Local transport links, such as the A38, about which I had an Adjournment debate last week, need to be prioritised. Cornwall’s economic future is a positive one, from the development of the space sector to the growth of creative industries, tourism and high quality food and drink production. I want to maintain the momentum after we leave the EU.
Brexit provides us with an opportunity to reassess how money is allocated and to make sure it is spent wisely and without the red tape of EU bureaucracy. Will my hon. Friend the Minister give an indication as to when we can expect the consultation on the shared prosperity fund? It has been promised and it would be good to know when it will happen. A refreshed approach to regional policy that is strategic and devolved will help to ensure that funding is targeted in the right areas, better reflecting the needs of my constituents. All hon. Members are fully aware that we contribute more to the EU budget than we get back each year. I ask the Minister to ensure that we receive a fair share of the Brexit dividend that reflects Cornwall’s unique economic and social challenges.