Wales politics

Brexit: Replacing EU funds no solution, Alun Cairns says

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Media captionAlun Cairns: 'Easy to ask for money, but let's look at the root causes'

Replacing EU funds with Westminster cash will not solve Wales' economic problems, the Welsh secretary has said.

Alun Cairns said politicians should look at the root causes of the problems that led to the poorest parts of Wales receiving regional aid.

He told the BBC that the current system was not sustainable, and the vote for Brexit had forced the issue.

Mr Cairns said the focus should be on basic skills so everyone "feels that they've got a part to play in society".

Leaders of the victorious campaign for the UK to leave the European Union had pledged that the UK Government could replace lost EU grant aid from the money it no longer had to send to Brussels.

'Barriers'

However, speaking after David Cameron's final cabinet meeting as Prime Minister on Tuesday, Mr Cairns said: "Just changing one source of income for another is not the answer."

Referring to the majority voting in Wales for Brexit, he said: "The referendum threw out some clear issues. The sort of projects and the nature of spend wasn't having traction in those communities, so we want a much higher level of debate.

"A business person in Wales said to me last week the previous situation was unsustainable. It had to be addressed, and this has been brought about now through the Brexit referendum."

Mr Cairns added: "It's easy to ask for money but I think we need to be looking at what the root causes of those issues are.

"We looked at life chances in the cabinet today, we looked at what the barriers were to allowing people to get on.

"Why are white working class people less likely than their peers to go on to university?

"Those are the sorts of issues that we need to be addressing, those sorts of literacy skills, those sorts of numeracy skills that we need to overcome, the opportunities we need to give to people so that every person feels that they've got a part to play in society.

"That's what the agenda is about, rather than money coming from one pot and going to another."

First Minister Carwyn Jones is expected to argue later that UK ministers must protect EU funding to upgrade public transport in south Wales.

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