Vince Cable ought to make the EU central to local electioneering

The local elections to be held on 2 May presents a great opportunity to take a causal approach between the Lib Dem pro-Remain position and the local elections. According to a report by the London School of Economics (LSE) titled, ‘The £8bn question:would local councils be better off outside the EU?’, local councils were due to receive that amount (£8bn) in funding between 2014 and 2020.

For some odd reason, Vince Cable has decided that local elections ought to be about local issues only and is eschewing the thought of discussing Brexit. Having stood on an intransigent position regarding Brext i.e Remain at all costs it seems foolish, at minimum, not to take the opportunity to bang the drum for how the EU contributes to local councils.

In an interview for ‘Politics Home’, as reported in Libdemvoice, Vince Cable states that: ” So we have put a lot of effort in, and I have personally been going round to support council candidates from Yeovil to York, whenever I can escape the Westminster bubble and our Brexit-preoccupied Parliament.”

Since the 2016 referendum never has such a golden opportunity presented itself to the Lib Dem leadership to make a strong case for remaining in the EU. There is a break in negotiations and an extension has been granted till 31 October giving Vince Cable more time to make a solid case. His case has just been strengthened with the strong possibility that the UK will participate in the European Parliament elections in May. But first we have the local elections in which to present a strong evidential case for the party’s message on Europe.

Instead, Vince Cable behaves as if it would be better to close the door on Brexit to give voters a break from it all while he occupies their minds ONLY with local issues such as bins and potholes. The equivalent would be to decide at Christmas time that people have had enough of Father Christmas and that it would be much nicer to talk about the Easter Bunny.

Mistimed and misjudged. If he wishes to win voters around he, of all people, ought not to be ring-fencing the Brexit debate. He makes it sound as if Brexit is a Westminster cocooned issue that spills out to make a mess elsewhere before retreating back to the centre.

It is not the time for Vince Cable to be striking some sort of odd compromise with the electorate by promising to leave Brexit out of his electioneering. For the leader of a hardy pro-Remain party it is an extremely questionable stance given that Brexit threatens the ‘billions of pounds of funding local areas currently receive from the EU for investment in local projects that support jobs and growth’ (LSE).

These funds are received via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) which, in turn, receives funding allocation from the European Structural and Investment (ESI) fund. According to a Parliamentary Research briefing by the House of Commons library 17.2 billion Euros has been allocated to the UK to, ‘…reducing disparities in the level of development of its various regions and for helping less developed regions to catch up’.

If the vote for Brexit was a cry from the belly of inequality as experienced by millions, does it not make sense to talk about a mechanism that aims to reduce it?

Vince Cable would do well to heed the LSE report which states that, since 2007, the ERDF has, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government, created around 115,000 jobs and helped 25,000 businesses to start or move into local areas in England.

Heed the moment Vince and be bold otherwise Norman Lamb will have been right all along.

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