In the early hours of the morning of 24 June, just as it had become clear that Britain had clearly voted to leave the European Union, the first question in Stephen Kinnock’s mind was: “What is this going to mean for these vitally important funds that have been coming into my country and my constituency?”
He resolved in that moment to pursue the issue in Parliament and to that end he has scheduled a debate in Westminster Hall debate this morning.
The Labour MP tells PoliticsHome he is “deeply concerned” about the impact of Brexit. He says the regional funding coming out of the EU has played a vital role in helping to mitigate the impact of Wales’ transition from the 20th to 21st century economy.
Aberafan, Mr Kinnock’s constituency, has come to rely on the investment as it has been seriously affected by “deindustrialisation, globalisation, the increasing automation of the work force, massive restructuring of heavy industry, both in terms of coal mining and the steel industry”.
Wales takes more funding per head than other areas of the UK. It will receive around €5bn from the European Union between 2014-2020 as well as more money from the European Commission directly from programmes such as Horizon 2020.
In August Chancellor Philip Hammond assured Wales that all agreed EU-funded projects signed before the June vote will continue until 2020.
But Mr Kinnock argues this “is far from enough”.
“It’s all very well guaranteeing through to 2020 but these are long term programmes and we need to be absolutely clear in terms of what’s happening after 2020.”
If Britain is looking to leave the EU by 2019, he says, the guarantees are a pretty paltry commitment of the government.
Today, he is calling for an underwriting of all project funds for the 2014- 2020 financial framework.
He also wants to see EU levels of funding maintained for at least a decade after that from the savings that are made by the UK not having to contribute to the EU budget.
He wants this to be in addition to the block grant that Wales receives every year, and he warns the Government against any “financial sleight of hand”.
“I don’t want to see this money disappears into a black hole of the Treasury, this needs to be outside the block grant, there needs to be a clear calculation so that we do not lose a single penny from leaving the EU…
“We need to see the money on the table for at least a decade after we’ve left the EU on a like for like basis.
“I would like to see well before Christmas a very clear commitment to that and a clear explanation of the mechanisms by which that money will be guaranteed.”
Mr Kinnock is clear that although the people of Wales voted to leave the EU, they did not vote for a drop in living standards or for a reduction in the investment in public services, infrastructure, innovation, family and communities programmes, or in the skills development programmes.
The MP argues a “a huge number of lies were told during the EU referendum campaign”, and says those who told those lies must be held to account.
Mr Kinnock says some Leave voters are now coming to him and saying they are “quite shocked by the shambles and worried there doesn’t seem to be a plan”.
He adds: “We were going to get £350m for the NHS so I think concerns are beginning to grow.”
Another thing Mr Kinnock says is weighing on Britons is the Government’s reluctance to commit to a parliamentary vote on its negotiating priorities for Brexit.
Brexiteers put sovereignty at the heart of their campaign, he says, but when it comes to “giving British Parliament the opportunity to scrutinise the most important decision we’ve made since the Second World War, suddenly, all those Leavers, all those Brexiteers saying that Parliament should be sidelined and this whole thing should be rammed through on the basis of a medieval royal prerogative, and I think a lot of people are now turning around and saying ‘a lot of that simply doesn’t stack up'”.
He also argues the referendum was “deeply divisive and confrontational” and that it is the job of Theresa May and her government to reunite the country.
“But you are not going to reunite the country if you start off by saying that Parliament shouldn’t be involved in scrutinising, debating and voting.”
“It is absurd to claim that Parliament shouldn’t be involved in that …I think that the Government is going to have to relent on that.”
When and if this principle is secured, Mr Kinnock believes it will apply to devolved parliaments, so the Welsh Assembly will also get a vote.
“It is first a question of the role of the UK Parliament, and you have to extrapolate that to its logical conclusion.”
Mr Kinnock “campaigned passionately for the UK to remain” and he describes it as a “deep regret” that the country voted to leave.
But unlike others, he doesn’t believe a second referendum should be on the agenda.
He compares the situation to that of a sports match: “I have always played a lot of rugby and football, and I’ve been in many matches where I’ve disagreed profoundly with the decision of the referee but you always accept the decision of the referee. And in this case the referee is the British people.”
He adds finally: “We’ve got to have a plan but right now it’s a shambles and so it’s our job to hold the government’s feet to the fire and to ensure the best possible Brexit for the British people and respect the democratic imperative around a more managed immigration system which also ensures that we don’t wreak havoc with the British economy.”