May Accused of Buying Brexit Votes With $2 Billion for Towns

Dwayne Harmon
March 6, 2019

But Britain's main opposition Labour Party described the fund as a "desperate bribe" by May's government to win support from Members of Parliament for her Brexit proposals.

However, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said the money was not to buy support for the Brexit vote.

Speaking to German newspaper Die Welt, Mr Barnier said: "We know that there are misgivings in Britain that the backstop could keep Britain forever connected to the EU".

The DUP and the Tory European Research Group (ERG) have made it clear they will not support the PM's withdrawal agreement in crunch Commons votes next week without such legally binding measures.

The Stronger Towns Fund will be "targeted at places that have not shared in the proceeds of growth in the same way as more prosperous parts of the country", ministers said.

"Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change, that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control, " she said.

"These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them".

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has represented negotiations around European Union countries [Getty Images] Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, told the BBC that the crucial issue was avoiding an indefinite backstop and "how we get there is something we are prepared to be flexible about".

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Rebecca Long Bailey, the shadow business secretary, said:"Hot on the heels of their pathetic bribe for left-behind towns, here comes the government's attempt to bribe workers to back their botched Brexit deal".

"But there is no constitutionality in that sense".

More than half of the automatically allocated funds were directed to towns in the north of England.

Luke Pollard, who represents Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, scorned the £35 million earmarked for towns in the South West, pointing out that it was around the same amount as the settlement agreed with Eurotunnel over the Brexit ferries "shambles", adding: "What a pathetic mess".

Last week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party would back a public vote to prevent a "damaging" Tory Brexit or no deal. Lisa Nandy, a half-Indian Labour MP whose constituency of Wigan voted heavily to leave the European Union, pointed to the fact that the funds amounted to just £40 million for towns across the North West of England.

Another £600 million will be available through a bidding process to communities in any part of the country.

No 10 refused to be drawn on Monday on a report that Mr Cox had dropped attempts to secure either a time limit or a unilateral exit mechanism in the face of entrenched opposition from the EU. In response to those who claim this fund doesn't make up for other budget squeezes, he claimed that this injection is "new money" and that "we await the regional fund details".

Mr Barnier has also stated that Brussels is ready to give the United Kingdom further "guarantees, assurances and clarifications" that the Irish backstop should only be temporary.

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