Welsh and Scottish associations voice support for stay in EU campaign

With the EU referendum fast approaching on 23 June, the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) have voiced their support for continued membership of the EU.

From economic well-being and significant levels of inward investment, to important cultural links, both associations hope the current and historic benefits of EU membership will form part of the public’s consideration as they make an important decision on the future of the UK.

Councillor Bob Bright (Newport City Council), WLGA spokesperson on Europe, said:

“The question of the UK’s membership of the EU is complex and it is for the voting public to determine.  However, while we recognise there are clear differences of opinion at all levels the WLGA takes the view that ‘remain’ is the best way forward, a position which was overwhelmingly endorsed at our Council.

“There are some very real and immediate impacts for local councils and communities that need to be taken into account if ‘Brexit’ was to occur. Access to EU funding is just one of those areas to be considered.  Wales is a net beneficiary of EU membership, receiving over £500m of EU funds annually and a guaranteed investment over a 7 year period. 

“This important source of funding continues to benefit individuals, businesses and communities across Wales in terms of supporting employment, delivering training and infrastructure projects and providing a lifeline to the agricultural sector. There is absolutely no guarantee that this level of financial support could be replicated by the UK Government in the event of an exit from the EU.

“Access to the single market is also a vital lifeline for small, medium and large businesses across Wales. In 2014 more than 600 Welsh firms exported goods worth over £5billion to customers in the EU.  Over 500 firms from other EU countries also have operations in Wales, which in turn provide more than 57,000 jobs.

“The potential implications are also much wider than purely financial.  If the UK votes to leave the EU, there will be massive impacts for local government policy and legislation across a range of service areas such as the environment and employment.”

COSLA President Councillor David O’Neill said:

“In COSLA’s Convention we agreed unanimously and across all our political groups that we would campaign to remain within the European Union for the EU Referendum.

“Councillors, representing all our membership, feel that given the social, economic, environmental, political and peace dividends being part of Europe brings this is the right thing to do. 

“COSLA also feels that the ability to directly influence the EU agenda from within its institutions was an important feature of the current arrangement although it was also felt that these could and must be improved upon, particularly with respect to the role of Scottish Local Government in working with the UK and Scottish Governments and Parliaments.

“COSLA will be keen to seek a positive vote and encourages Councillors to campaign for Scotland and the UK to remain in the EU.”

While all international organisations must adapt as they move forward, COSLA and the WLGA believe Scotland and Wales’ ability to directly influence the EU agenda from within is a strength of the current arrangement. 

Both associations also make it clear that, whatever the outcome of the EU referendum, more needs to be done in Scotland and Wales to devolve powers to a local level so that councils and communities can shape their local area and services more directly, in line with the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

The importance of continued EU membership for local councils in Wales and the UK is also outlined in the WLGA’s manifesto ‘Localism 2016-21’.

Article published: 
Tue, 17/05/2016 - 10:52