Wales politics

Brexit may change South Wales Metro plans, Jones warns

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Plans to upgrade public transport in south Wales may have to change after Brexit, the first minister has said.

Carwyn Jones told AMs ministers will press ahead with the £600m Metro project but warned it could take longer to deliver.

But he said there were no guarantees the UK government would protect EU funding, needed for the scheme.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies accused Mr Jones of using Brexit as a "smokescreen".

Later Economy Secretary Ken Skates told AMs that construction on the metro will take place from 2019.

The Metro is intended to provide better trains, faster buses and light rail or tram services in Cardiff and the valleys.

It was announced last year that £600m will be spent on the current phase of the metro.

That included £125m from the UK government and £150m in European regional development funding.

'Open for business'

In a statement on his priorities for government, the first minister told AMs on Tuesday that despite uncertainty over significant element of EU funding for the Metro project, his government "will be pressing ahead" with its development.

"It may not be in exactly the same form as before, we will have to look at alternative funding models and it may take longer to get to where we want to be, but I believe this is an important signal to employers that Wales is still open for business", he said.

Image caption Carwyn Jones says the loss of EU funding would leave a 'very large hole' in government budgets

Mr Jones said he had hoped to publish a detailed programme for the government's five-year term before the summer recess started next week, but he was putting it off until September because of Brexit.

The first minister restated his call for the UK government to guarantee replacing the EU funding currently enjoyed by Wales, estimated at around £600m a year.

"Without this assurance we face a very large hole in our future budgets," he said.

'Little to say'

But Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said: "Instead of prevaricating, and using the Brexit vote as an excuse for a lack of ideas, the First Minister should get on with laying down his Programme for Government.

"The reality, therefore, is that the First Minister is in danger of appearing as though he is using the EU referendum as a smokescreen to conceal the fact that his government has little to say on the real issues faced by Welsh communities everyday; such as the Welsh NHS, declining education standards, and the need to kick start the Welsh economy."

He added that Mr Jones's statement failed to mention the steel crisis among the government's priorities.

Later in the Senedd Economy Secretary Mr Skates said construction on the Metro "will take place from 2019, with services operating as soon as possible, and this will depend on the solution being delivered".

Earlier on Tuesday, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns claimed that tackling the "root causes" of economic problems in poorer parts of Wales would be more effective than replacing EU grants with Westminster cash.

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