The European Committee of the Regions will work together with local and regional governments in the UK and the rest of Europe to better understand the impact Brexit will have on all towns, cities and regions. During a meeting in London with the British Secretary of State, David Jones, the Committee's President, Markku Markkula, also stressed that it will continue to cooperate with the UK’s local and regional government throughout the Brexit negotiations and beyond.
Leading a delegation of the Committee's political groups, President Markkula visited London at the invitation of the leader of its UK Delegation. The meeting was also attended by political representatives of the UK's devolved administrations and local authorities from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
President Markkula said: “Brexit will have an impact on local and regional governments in both the UK and the EU, which is why we will continue to work closely together to understand the local economic, political and social consequences. Formally our institution does not have a binding role in the negotiations. However, our members – within their national legislation – can adopt formal positions. During the Brexit negotiations, the European Committee of the Regions will support all local and regional authorities, to allow them to voice their views. Towns, cities, regions and localities in the UK and across Europe have well-established ties built up over many years. We need to think how we can continue to learn from each other, share ideas and maintain these relations well into the future."
"Local governments and the devolved bodies have an important role to play", said Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council and head of the UK Delegation to the CoR. "It is important that the EU powers that return to the UK do not get stuck in Whitehall, but should be passed to the level of government closest to the citizen. And to ensure that these new tasks are well-implemented, councils and devolved bodies should receive adequate financial resources."
Secretary of State Jones said: "It was a pleasure to attend the annual general meeting of the UK Delegation of the Committee of the Regions. I enjoyed the opportunity to address the UK delegation and listen to their concerns. I welcome the delegation's commitment and remain fully engaged with their work. I look forward to working further with them."
President Markkula thanked Mr Watson for organising the visit and paid tribute to Sir Albert Bore, the former leader of Birmingham City Council who served as the Committee’s President between 2002 and 2004.
President Markkula and the Committee’s delegation which was composed of leaders from its political groups, namely: Markus Töns (DE/PES) Member of the North Rhine-Westphalia Regional Parliament; Kieran McCarthy (IE/EA), Member of Cork City Council; Kate Feeney (IE/ALDE), Member of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council; and Rob Jonkman (NL/ECR), Member of the Executive Council of Opsterland. The visit follows a meeting between the Committee’s leaders and its UK delegation in mid-January with Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, who confirmed his wish to open a channel of dialogue and communication to allow local and regional stakeholders to be informed and heard throughout the process.
The European Committee of the Regions, the EU's assembly for democratically elected local and regional politicians, has a consultative role in EU policymaking. Of its 700 members and alternates, 48 come from the United Kingdom.