Brexit funding: Northern Ireland Economy Minister Gordon Lyons critical of Government over programmes designed to replace lost EU cash

Stormont’s Economy Minister has criticised the Government’s handling of funding programmes that are supposed to replace lost EU support for Northern Ireland.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 12:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 4:53 pm

Gordon Lyons told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that the Government was not giving Stormont enough say in where the cash went.

Northern Ireland is losing tens of millions of pounds of EU funding as a consequence of Brexit.

While the UK Government has vowed to plug that gap with direct funding programmes, it has yet to fully replace the lost European funds.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons

This is having a particular impact on Mr Lyons’ department and the work of Stormont’s business development agency, Invest NI.

Mr Lyons gave an assessment of Government programmes such as the Shared Prosperity Fund and Levelling Up Fund as he gave evidence to the committee on Tuesday morning.

Those funds allocate money directly to projects across the UK – an approach that has drawn criticism from devolved administrations that believe they should have more say in where the cash goes.

“The UK Government has committed on a number of occasions to replacing EU funding, at the very least replacing it, potentially giving us additional funds,” said Mr Lyons.

“That commitment is welcome. But unless the money is going to the right place and is better aligned to our objectives, we could have a problem.”

He said Stormont had to be given a level of control.

“I think we know best how that can be spent to align to our priorities,” he said.

“And I think that right across the UK that should be the case – that it shouldn’t be central government that is dictating in any way how funding or the way in which funding should be spent.

“There should be autonomy for devolved administrations and cities and regions across the UK to make those decisions.

“I think that was one of the reasons why so many people want to leave the European Union, because they wanted to see greater control devolved to local areas.”

The minister said there had not been enough collaboration between the Government and Stormont on the issue.

“I have been disappointed with the level of engagement overall,” he said.

“We’ve repeatedly sought clarity on when funds will be available, how they will be administered, the way in which that would be done, the level of engagement that we will have with them, and that process has all been disappointing.”

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