Monday, 19 October 2009

We don't want to live on hand-outs, but neither do we want to cough up for yours!

With more and more countries queuing up to enjoy handouts from the EU, what will happen to Wales?

It's hardly worth my while mentioning I am a Eurosceptic. You may have guessed that already as a UKIP MEP.

But being a Member of the European Parliament isn't about jumping on the gravy train to prove a point. I represent a choice made by the voters who elected me into this role - and I want to protect their interests and the interests of Wales.

We are a member state of this overpriced private members club, whether we like it or not.

The UK remains one of the largest net contributors to the EU - meaning we pay more in than we get out.

Well at least at the moment Wales benefits from EU funding. (It ticks the right boxes).

Under the current programme, drawn up in 07 and in place until 2013, Wales is entitled to a total 1.9 billion pounds. The money is intended to be spent on developing sustainable economic growth and creating jobs.

West Wales and the Valleys actually receive the highest level of support under the current structural funds, which sounds great, for sure. But the region suffers protracted economic problems, and one function of the EU is to support such places with grants and funds, in return for that huge membership fee!

Many people regard the UK as a wealthy place to live. Many of our European counterparts would be shocked to see the struggle faced by some of our communities riddled with poverty and unemployment.

Merthyr Tydfil, a former coal and steel producing hotspot, was once the fastest growing town in the world. Last year it was named the UK’s worst long-term benefits blackspot. It is estimated some 30 per cent of the town’s working-age population rely on handouts to survive. In March this year, the town’s Hoover Factory closed, seeing another 337 lose their jobs for good, with no viable local alternative.

The Valleys have been all but destroyed by the closure of big industries which at one point were the backbone solid, hardworking communities. Today, the mines are closed. The factories that grew up in their place are outsourcing work overseas. The communities that thrived on this employment have not just lost their jobs and their income, but also all sense of purpose and belonging.

These are also sparsely populated areas, far away from major cities. For many children born here, their fate is predetermined.

With more and more countries queuing up to join the EU, this much needed support (which still doesn't even approach an amount that would balance the books) will no doubt go to newer member countries with well documented histories of economic struggle. Countries like Slovenia and Romania added to the list of net beneficiaries - those who get more out than they pay in. With applications being considered for Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania this list will only get longer, tipping the scales even further - and leaving us to pick up the bill.

Europe’s richest countries like Iceland and Norway have given the Union a wide berth, knowing they would merely be paying in to fund their poorer neighbours.

Wales cannot afford to pay if nothing is being paid back out.

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