THE devolved nations and English regions have accused the Tory government of breaching yet another manifesto pledge after it failed to match EU funds lost to Brexit.

Boris Johnson’s party pledged in its 2019 manifesto to “at a minimum match the size” of the EU structural funds which had been designed to support economic development and reduce regional inequalities.

The manifesto further promised to make the replacement funds less bureaucratic than the EU’s, and “better targeted at the UK’s specific needs”.

Pre-Brexit, the EU funds were worth a total of around £1.5 billion a year.

However, the replacement Shared Prosperity Fund, which is set to launch in April, will only be worth £400 million in 2022. This will rise to £700m in 2023-2024, and to £1.5bn in 2024-25.

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Westminster’s Treasury Committee, in a report published last week, noted: “The Government is only providing to this new fund 60% of the money provided by the EU fund.

“If the new fund is intended to be one of ‘the centrepieces’ of the Government’s ambition, it is surprising that the size of the fund is being reduced to such an extent.

“The Government will need to demonstrate how these reduced funds will achieve their defined metrics for levelling-up.”

The Welsh Government claimed the Tories’ replacement fund would leave them “close to £1bn” worse off over the next three years.

The National: Economy Minister Vaughan Gething

“It’s a straightforward breach of the manifesto pledge,” Vaughan Gething (above), the Welsh economy minister, told the FT.

It follows the Cardiff administration also warning that the UK’s “Community Renewal Fund” was just a fraction of the £375m it would have received annually from the EU before Brexit.

Alison Thewliss, the SNP’s shadow chancellor, warned the shortfall in funding would hit “key projects and communities”. She said Scotland should not receive “one penny less” than under EU membership.

FT reported that Northern Ireland was facing a loss of up to £65mn a year. This could mean a loss of more than £500mn in investment and losses of up to 6000 jobs, according to official presentations to a Stormont budget committee hearing.

As well as the devolved nations, warnings have been raised that the regions of England in the most need of funding are set to lose out.

Analysis from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, working with Teesside University and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, found that some of the most deprived regions in England could face losses of more than 50% of previous funds from the EU.

“It is not just the total amount of funding but also how it is allocated that is concerning,” the analysis writes. “Some places most in need of levelling up are at risk of a substantial reduction in funding for regional development, compared to when the UK was part of the EU.”

Henri Murison, the director of the partnership, told the FT that the figures exposed “the gap between rhetoric and reality”, accusing the government of “broken promises” on retaining regional investment post-Brexit.

Michael Gove’s “levelling up department” confirmed that the funding would not match the £1.5bn from EU funding until 2024-2025.

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A spokesperson claimed they had “been clear throughout” that the funding would “ramp up to at least match receipts from EU structural funds”.

However, the Treasury’s Autumn Budget and Spending Review said the opposite. It claimed to “reaffirm that total funding through the [Shared Prosperity Fund] will at a minimum match the size of EU Funds in each nation and in Cornwall, each year”.

The pledge to match the funds lost to Brexit is the latest in a string of manifesto commitments broken by Boris Johnson's party. 

Since being elected, the Tories have also rowed back on promises not to increase National Insurance contributions, not to end the triple-lock on pensions, and not to cut the international aid budget, among other things.