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BYERS WELCOMES 'VERY GOOD' DEAL FOR UK REGIONS

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A 'very good' deal on European funding for the regions of Britain was welcomed by Stephen Byers, secretary of state...
A 'very good' deal on European funding for the regions of Britain was welcomed by Stephen Byers, secretary of state for trade and industry today.

The settlement secured at the Berlin Summit resulted from the government's positive approach to Europe, Mr Byers said:

'This is a very good deal and much better than the Commission's original plans.

'It will mean that the UK will benefit from funding for economic development and regeneration in the regions over the next seven years.

'Together with local authorities and local people we have worked hard to protect some of our most needy areas. Today's outcome will give Cornwall, South Yorkshire West Wales and the Valleys and Merseyside a huge boost in resources to help their regeneration.'

The package was essential for Europe's future, Mr Byers said:

'We have always accepted the need for member states to take a cut in population covered by the funds to make enlargement affordable. But these cuts should be fair. The original plans were not. These are.

'I am particularly pleased that a special deal for the Highlands and Islands will make sure that the region benefits from strong transitional support. It will maintain funding at the same level as Objective 1, some£200 million in the next funding period. 'It is also good news that the special position of Northern Ireland has been recognised. The support agreed will be vital to the development of its economy.

'We have also argued successfully to restrict cuts on the second level of funding - Objective 2.'

Main elements of the settlement at Berlin include :

Cornwall, South Yorkshire, West Wales and Valleys and Merseyside qualify for highest level of funding, Objective 1;

unique package of support for Northern Ireland of over£900 million;

funding equivalent to Objective 1 for Highlands and Islands;

on Objective 2 the UK's safety net mean that some 13.5m people as opposed to the 6.5m originally proposed are likely to be covered.

Concluding, Mr Byers said:

'The reforms show the benefit of our positive approach to Europe. Through tough and positive negotiation we have secured a better deal for this country on the highest level of funding than any other member state.

'And, we have also put in place the transitional arrangements that will protect our regions.

'The deal meets our goals of cutting costs and bureaucracy in the administration of regional funding.

'It will benefit regional economies and make a real difference for the people living there.'

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