Talks on securing €2.1 billion in European aid to West Wales and the Valleys are reaching their final, crucial stage in Brussels.
Sharp End is in Strasbourg for a special programme from the European Parliament discussing the effects of the EU on Wales.
Tonight's Sharp End looks at controversies over Europe, powers for the Assembly and windfarms.
Two senior Welsh Conservative AMs have said they would vote to leave the European Union if a referendum were held tomorrow. Deputy Leader Paul Davies said Tory MPs pushing for legislation for a vote 'are reflecting the mood of the country.' He said he'd 'vote to leave the EU in its present form.'
But he added that the Prime Minister should be given chance to renegotiate Britain's relationship with Brussels. He rejected the First Minister's claim that leaving would be disastrous for Wales. Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said he'd 'most likely' vote 'out' if a vote were held tomorrow.
He said money sent to the EU could be used to develop home-made aid programmes rather than Brussels-led projects 'which have made diddly squat difference.' Their leader Andrew RT Davies has previously said he'd campaign for a no vote if negotiations to change the EU's direction were unsuccessful.
A Labour source says the results of the latest Sharp End poll call into question Plaid Cymru's stated aim of boosting its constituency vote in future Assembly elections and particularly leader Leanne Wood's decision to fight a constituency rather than a regional seat in 2016.
The poll suggests that Plaid's support in the constituency vote has dropped by 2% since the 2011 election although its since an increase of 8% in the regional vote. Plaid says 'it's very pleasing to see (the party) leading the votes on the National Assembly regional list.'
But the Labour source tells me that Plaid should be worried:
Leanne’s decision to stand in a constituency seat looks like it will come back to haunt her.
Plaid’s entire assembly election strategy is based around winning constituency seats. This poll suggests that strategy is destined to fail.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith says the results of the latest Sharp End poll represent a vote of confidence in Labour's leadership at Westminster and in Wales.
This poll is disastrous news for both the Tories and the Lib Dems. It shows the plummeting support for the UK coalition parties and a strong vote of confidence in the leadership of Ed Miliband and Carwyn Jones. That Plaid Cymru's support is also down shows that voters value the way the Welsh Labour Government is standing up for Wales in the face of cuts from Westminster.
– Owen Smith MP, Shadow Welsh Secretary
There is a long way to go until the next elections but what is clear is that people can see for themselves the difference between a Labour Government investing in jobs and growth and protecting public services, and a Tory/Lib Dem Government prioritising a tax cut for millionaires while cutting support for working people.
Plaid Cymru has welcomed its improved showing in the regional part of the Assembly vote in the latest Sharp End poll. A spokesperson says:
It is very pleasing to see Plaid Cymru leading the votes on the National Assembly regional list, but we all recognise that there is a very long time to go before the next set of Assembly elections, and we are certainly not complacent.
Plaid Cymru is ambitious for Wales and voters are clearly recognising Leanne Wood’s honesty and integrity as a political leader.
Welsh politics is unique and it is important for Wales that there are more Welsh voters’ polls like this to show popular opinion in Wales.
Plaid Cymru says the ITV Cymru Wales poll showing a majority in Wales for keeping Britain in the European Union links EU membership with the Welsh national interest. The party argues that it if a UK majority voted to leave, it would still be wrong to override Wales' wish to stay in the EU.
These figures show that many people in Wales recognise that membership of the EU is in the Welsh national interest. They are also evidence of the need for a full, open and honest debate on Wales in the EU. I have published research that proves that the people of Wales benefit from EU membership. Wales needs EU funding to strengthen the economy, create much needed jobs and develop our infrastructure.
– Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans
There need to be changes in the EU to make it more democratic and representative. We need to look at where decisions are made, and what powers would be used most effectively in the Assembly, working closely with the EU. In the event of a referendum where Wales voted to stay in the EU, the democratic will of the Welsh people must be respected.
The Conservative leader of the Opposition in the Assembly has swiftly responded to the First Minister's attack on the EU budget deal. Andrew RT Davies says David Cameron achieved 'an historic agreement' in Brussels last Friday and he's accused Carwyn Jones of 'opportunistic whinging'.
– Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies AM
This is in contrast to the previous Labour Government which gave up £2 billion of Britain’s rebate and agreed increases to the EU budget of 47%. Carwyn Jones’ opportunism whingeing about a cut to the EU budget leaves him totally at odds with Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Labour’s MEPs, who are all supporting the agreed cut. It’s only because of Labour’s squandering of billions of pounds of EU structural funds, that West Wales and the Valleys remain amongst the poorest regions of Europe and are set to qualify for a third tranche of funding.
The Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, said on Friday that if the Prime Minister had secured a 'genuine real terms cut' in the EU Budget then he will have delivered what Labour and Parliament demanded.
The First Minister, who's leading a trade mission to California, has given the Welsh Government's first detailed reaction to the EU budget deal. Carwyn Jones says its impact on west Wales and the valleys is as bad as feared. He also warns about the effect on the rest of Wales and on farming.
West Wales and the Valleys will lose out to wealthier regions,including those within the UK. The agreement would mean a reduction of some £400m for 2014-2020 compared to the funding for2007-2013 – this figure would be much greater of course in real terms. This is contrary to the EU’s objective to narrow income differentials across the Union. Furthermore, the impact for East Wales remains uncertain, as its funding allocation will need to be negotiated with the UK Government, but we have concerns that this region too will see a substantial reduction in its funding.
While other Member States, including Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Italy and Spain, have sought and secured additional special allocations for regions adversely affected by the overall budget settlement, the UK failed to negotiate similar protection for Wales. We must now look to the UK Government to make a fair allocation of support to Wales in order to address our much reduced Structural Funds budget so that we can continue our work to lift the economy of our country.
– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM
As regards the Common Agricultural Policy, it is difficult at this stage to extrapolate direct payments to farmers or for the rural development funds and we expect the details to emerge over the coming weeks and months. However, we will be pushing the UK Government hard to ensure that our allocations reflect the challenges faced by our rural communities and the industry more generally. Overall, where the agreement failed to provide adequate support at the EU level for our vulnerable communities, we will be looking to the UK Government to cover the shortfall.
Earlier today, the Prime Minister said he expected 'fruitful talks' about how European funds should be distributed. The entire seven year budget has still to be approved by the European Parliament, which could reject it.