The United Kingdom's Prime Minister Theresa May launched a £1.6 billion "Stronger Towns Fund" to the U.K.'s most impoverished towns - many of which voted to leave the EU - after Brexit. The pot is divided into £1 billion, which has already been allocated according to need-based formula, and a further £600 million communities can bid for. The money will be spread over seven years, with more than half of the money will go to the north of England and the Midlands.
Many Labour MPs see the fund as part of the measures undertaken by the government to win support for Theresa May's Brexit deal and overcome the opposition by many resisting Tory lawmakers. It is alleged the fund intends to woo MPs; many call it a "bribe", who represent areas, that voted in June 2016 strongly in favour of leaving the bloc. However, many MPs had rejected that the plan would have any impact on their decision and said the new cash would not buy their votes.
According to the original plan, Britain is due to leave the bloc by March 29. The PM, whose deal with the European Union was rejected by a record majority in January, has scheduled a vote on a revised agreement by March 12. The lawmakers will also get a chance to seek an extension from the EU.
The "Stronger Towns Fund ", according to the government, intends to invest in regions that have not reaped the benefits from economic growth as much as other parts of the country. The PM said economic growth has been "unfairly spread" across the country "for too long" and the money would be used to create jobs, train local people and boost investment. In a statement, she said that Brexit was a result of communities’ desire to see change and that change must bring more opportunities with greater control.
However, MPs within the Labour Party has labelled the fund as "Brexit bribery” and described the money as "extraordinarily pathetic". They are already calling it a failed attempt to convince Labour MPs representing Leave-voting areas to back Mrs May's withdrawal agreement. Labour MP Alex Sobel, of the cross-party People's Vote campaign which roots a new referendum on Brexit, said when compared to the cost of leaving the bloc, it was "a drop in the ocean". He further added that any potential return from this scheme would be entirely wiped out by the yearly loss to local economies after Brexit. Critics added that the fund, when distributed amongst large areas, would not leave individual cities with a considerable amount of cash, would neither compensate for the loss they had to incur due to government cuts in recent years.
Anna Soubry, a member of the newly formed Independent Group, called the fund as a "desperate measure to buy votes" and drew similarities with the £1 billion the DUP secured for Northern Ireland. She further said that the trick would not fool the voters, especially those in areas which voted to leave. She reiterated calls for a second referendum.
The Housing and Communities secretary, James Brokenshire, rejected that the fund was to entice opposing MPs, and said the communities left behind would experience a "transformative" impact. He further said that "there is no conditionality" and insisted the cash would be appropriated no matter what the result of the vote on withdrawal agreement will be.
Nevertheless, according to some reports, more than 30 Tory lawmakers are ready to support May's EU withdrawal agreement, when the parliament will vote on it for the second time later this month. This manoeuvre may help her to cross the line and get her deal approved finally. However, it further deteriorates her credibility in the parliament and the party.
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