To all those fresh faces this year who aren’t entirely sure what distant part of the UK they’ve stumbled too. Welcome to the state of Cornish politics after the recent vote to leave the EU and the General Election, with which Cornwall has only found itself reaching the cusp of dejection.
Since 1999 Cornwall has received £1 billion in EU funding. This is entirely because Cornwall is one of only four areas impoverished enough to receive this level of EU grants within the UK, named ‘objective one’ (from the European Social Fund). As you’ll grow accustomed to the campus, you may become aware of the EU funding notices around the university. One can go on and on about various EU projects, UK government projects but that wouldn’t paint much of a scene of what is relevant; Cornwall now, and the future thereof.
Three years ago, the Cornish were finally declared a national minority by the UK government. Since this achievement, it seems Cornwall has only further cemented its minority status as an isolated and rejected area by the UK government. Cornish councillor Candy Atherton has stated that securing funds from parliament is like “trying to get blood out of a stone”. One can try to make arguments for the need for investment elsewhere in the UK but this doesn’t alleviate the poor economic situation Cornwall remains in and the devastating impact the withdrawal of EU funds will have.
Since the Brexit vote, Cornwall has made the plea for confirmation that the government would replace the annual £60 million it receives from EU economic investment. A plea that was turned down, leaving Cornwall in deep dark water competing for funding with more affluent areas such as Bristol and Birmingham. In the last round of funding, Cornish councillors were given a mere third of this (£18 million to be precise) by the DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government).
We can harp on about the fact that the Cornish did resoundingly vote to leave. But such bemoaning won’t resolve Cornish politics. Now of all times when the government is needed most the decades of abandonment continue. Come 2020 it looks as though there’ll be a complete drought in EU and UK government funding as the policy of austerity continues and investment from the DCLG is further cut, expected to be 22% lower this year than it was in 2010. Dick Cowl, Leader of Mebyon Kernow (The Cornish independence party), has said that by continuing this policy “Local government is being crucified.”
I’m aware this article is all doom and gloom. But its purpose is not to depress or lambast the policy of Austerity, it’s to bring awareness to the issues of this county that many of you may not be aware of, open debate, and ideally, spark answers to the question of Cornwall in its potential post-EU state.