The MEP, 47, for the West Midlands, told Express.co.uk the plans to create super-regions across Europe was “a way of by-passing national government and democracy and to get European Union regulations into regions.”
Mr Etheridge has firsthand knowledge of the plans, having served on the EU’s Regional Development Committee.
The idea is to create large “city regions” that have a ‘capital’ where the EU then funds those particular regions.
With Mr Etheridge’s constituency of the West Midlands, the regional capital would be Birmingham.
While on the surface this may seem a positive scheme, opening up deprived areas to new funds, Mr Etheridge is sceptical of the plans.
Mr Etheridge said: “What I foresaw were these ‘super regions’ something like the ‘northern powerhouse’ or whatever they call it.
“The idea is that you have a capital city of a region and then when they have a funding plan based on seven years, they put it to the city rather than the national government and that way the rules and regulations that are attached can’t get vetoed in parliament.”
These extra funds also come with three conditions attached from the EU, according to Mr Etheridge – “congestion charging should be applied, there should be quotas for ethnic minorities and gender balance, positive discrimination in other words, and measures to deal with pollution, things to do with bin collections, landfill, that kind of stuff”.
Another key factor is the money is given not as a grant but a loan, which needs to be paid back.
Mr Etheridge said: “The key factor of it is – and this is the killer punch – which comes with these key infrastructure projects – new roads, rail and so on is that it is loaned money.
“It’s not grants, but loans to be paid back over decades.”
This would then, despite any possible future change in the political administration, tie the UK to adhering to the EU’s rules and regulations for years to come, even when the country leaves the bloc after Brexit.
Mr Etheridge said: “It’s also done over seven year budgets so if you have a change of leadership in this combined authority it doesn’t matter because you are committed to this seven year plan for EU funding.
“That means there is no democracy involved. Now I know we are committed to Brexit 2019 but if these super regions are still existing and they are going along with the plan I think it is almost impossible to imagine how the stream of EU rules, regulations and loans is going to be dried up by that time.
“That was the key. It was absolutely a way of by-passing national government and democracy to get EU regulations into regions.
“It breaks down national governance. When you’ve got regions you’re not dealing with national governments – the UK or France or Spain any more but with that particular region and over a period of time they all become regions of a federal superstate.”
The European Commission has been contacted for comment.