Wigan MP: Coal towns Brexit funding pointless without customs union and workers' rights

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy says Government cash incentives for former coal towns to back the prime minister's Brexit deal are pointless without strong guarantees about the future.

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 12:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st January 2019, 1:43 pm
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

Ms Nandy said a no-deal or unfavourable departure from the European Union (EU) would instantly negate any of the benefits from the increased funding.

She also revealed Wigan, so far, is not one of the Leave-backing industrial areas which the Conservative Party has hinted at approaching to discuss extra money.

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She said: "Nobody from Government has approached me about this but if they did I would tell them there's no point investing in towns if they're taking us down a route that destroys jobs, wages and workers' rights.

"A permanent customs union and commitment to workers' rights remains the issue."

Ms Nandy also appeared on Robert Peston's ITV politics show on Wednesday evening where she said the Labour Party also needed to consider compromising on some of its Brexit red lines if no-deal was to be avoided.

She tweeted afterwards: "This wasn't easy to say, but it is true."

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has also weighed in after a national newspaper revealed the idea with a warning for any MPs thinking of trying to take the money and then back prime minister Theresa May.

Mr Corbyn said the Government's plan for leaving the EU would not help deprived areas any more than austerity had since 2010, after the Times reported Mrs May would offer incentives to pro-Brexit backbenchers, many from old coal mining areas.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Corbyn said MPs should always "demand appropriate resources for their constituencies" but the best way to get them was to push for a Labour government.

He said: "Many, particularly from mining areas, have been disgracefully treated by this Tory government and indeed previous ones - ever since the miners' strike in the 1980s.

"Clearly, there has to be investment in those communities, but the Brexit plan proposed by Theresa May doesn't solve that any more than the Government's austerity programme is going to solve any of that.

"I simply say to people, if you voted leave or voted remain, your need for a government who will invest in your communities are exactly the same.

"We need a government that is going to invest in communities and create good-quality, secure jobs."

Some 14 MPs voted on Monday against the Labour whip to oppose an amendment by Yvette Cooper which would have paved the way to delay Britain's exit from the EU, with 11 more abstaining.

Wigan Today understands Rosie Cooper, MP for neighbouring West Lancashire, was one of the 14.

Downing Street hinted on Thursday at additional financial support for former mining communities as part of a programme of "national renewal" following Brexit.

"The Prime Minister has a long-standing commitment to tackling inequality between communities," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

"We are determined to lead a programme of national renewal post-Brexit by rebuilding and reconnecting communities, driving prosperity and unleashing the potential and creativity of hard-working people in every part of our country.

"No community should feel that they are left behind."

Asked if the funding was "cash for votes", the spokesman said: "I absolutely wouldn't characterise it like that."