EDIT: Since this article was written, the UK Government has announced its financial backing for Crossrail 2 – another transport infrastructure project in London.
This week, the UK Government finally admitted that it was abandoning plans to upgrade the Great Western rail line to Swansea. It will get to Cardiff and then diesel will take over.
Disappointing is an understatement.
This is happening in the context of Brexit (which dominates everything it seems). It is no secret that Wales’ infrastructure is lacking what one would expect of a modern European nation, this is why Wales has received over £2 billion in financial aid from the European Union over the years (whether one agrees with how it was spent by the Welsh Government is another matter). The leaders of the Vote Leave campaign in Wales promised that Wales would not only receive its current level of funding from the EU but that it will continue beyond 2020.
Promise after promise was made to Swansea too. Former Prime Minister David Cameron, who said in the House of Commons that he was “absolutely committed to electrifying the Great Western main line to Cardiff and through to Swansea”. The leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies even praised the wonderful crumbs being offered to Swansea and South Wales.
There are many excellent analyses of why the attitude of the UK Government is so ignorant of Wales’ needs ranging from an ideological prejudice to actively avoiding parliamentary scrutiny. This article, however, aims to draw attention to what this represents is the kind of UK we are likely to face if Brexit actually happens.
It was said that the UK would save millions of pounds by leaving the EU; we’ll be able to fund more of our public services by cutting out the middleman! That Wales need not worry, we shall continue to receive the funding we need ‘post-Brexit’.
Then we had the Article 50 Bill, where an amendment to guarantee this promise in law was voted down (and, incidentally, by every Welsh Conservative MP).
This, combined with the zero evidence that the UK Government is properly consulting with the devolved governments in its Brexit negotiations, presents a gloomy vision for Wales, post-Brexit. A future where crumbs are presented as great gifts deserving praise and applause, while the loaf itself goes to those who have the focus of whoever happens to be in Number 10 (*cough-DUP-cough*).
Take, for example, the two city deals in Cardiff and Swansea; obviously welcomed investment, but put into the context of the DUP deal, less so:
Cardiff will receive £500m over 20 years.
Swansea will receive £115m over 15 years.
Totalling £33m per year for Wales.
£1 billion meanwhile will be going to Northern Ireland over five years.
How much is Wales prepared to lose? How many promises have to be broken, for the people to say ‘no more’?
EDIT: Since this article was written, the UK Government has announced its financial backing for Crossrail 2 – another transport infrastructure project in London. *sigh*
Peter Frederick Gilbey is a board member of Wales For Europe