North could lose out on millions of peace money

Posted By: August 21, 2017

Gareth McKeown. Irish News. Belfast. Monday, August 21, 2017

 Former secretary of state Peter Hain has warned Theresa May to reconsider removing Britain from the European Court of Justice

Writing in The Irish News last week Theresa May said Britain would consider matching the hundreds-of-millions of pounds of EU structural funds committed to the north
A FORMER secretary of state has warned the North could lose out on millions of pounds of peace funding if the UK government does not “soften’” its approach to Brexit negotiations.

Peter Hain, who served as the North’s secretary from 2005 to 2007 has said the government should reconsider its “dogmatic insistence” on removing the UK from the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which is putting roughly £240 million of Peace IV funding at risk.

The ECJ oversees the peace money grants, with the current funding block due to run until 2020. In a statement, the Labour politician said it would be the “height of irresponsibility” to lose the much-needed funding.

“The EU’s PEACE programme has made a massive contribution to helping communities across Northern Ireland put the past behind them and build a brighter, more cohesive future,” he said.

“ It would be the height of irresponsibility for the government to look a gift horse in the mouth and give that funding up because of their obsession with the ECJ.”

“The government needs to bow to reality and accept that this programme will require the softening of their unnecessary red line on judicial sovereignty,” Mr Hain said.

In the UK’s Brexit position paper, the government pledged its commitment to maintaining the “implementation of the Peace IV programme”, while last week Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain would consider matching the hundreds-of-millions of pounds of EU structural funds previously committed to the north under Peace and other Brussels-backed programmes.

Writing in The Irish News Mrs May said she wants EU funding for Troubles’ victims and cross-community groups to continue “at least until the current programme finishes” in 2020.

“We then want to go further and explore a potential future programme of peace funding after we leave the EU,” she said.

Over the past 22 years, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) has provided more than €1.5 billion (£1.36m) in funding for projects in Northern Ireland and the Republic’s border counties.