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EU must support cities and regions to counter effects of Brexit  

​ Michel Barnier applauded for efforts to secure an orderly withdrawal of the UK in a debate that highlighted continued uncertainties for citizens and economy.

Regional and local leaders on 6 December urged the European Union to take measures to soften the impact of the UK's withdrawal and for an EU budget that stimulates regional economies. The calls came during a debate in Brussels with Michel Barnier, during which the EU's Chief Negotiator with the United Kingdom was praised for having secured an agreement that limits the risks posed to the EU and to the Republic of Ireland in particular and for his outreach to cities and regions over the course of negotiations.

Mr Barnier spoke at the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) – the EU's assembly of local and regional governments – a few days after the member states' heads of state and government endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement, which will be put to the UK Parliament for the first step of ratification on 11 December. The agreement is a prelude to talks on long-term relations between the UK and the EU, which Mr Barnier told the CoR in March 2017 should be "ambitious" on trade, research and innovation, climate action, international cooperation and development, and security.

Mr Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator and a former European commissioner for regional development, said on 6 December: "It is a balanced deal; it is the only one and the best one possible. The agreement respects the EU's principles, while taking into account the UK's red lines. In the current EU programming period 2014-2020, we have agreed that all commitments made by the 28 will be honoured by the 28, providing financial stability. It will preserve fair competition and will maintain opportunities for cooperation with UK cities, regions or universities. It will maintain the economic dynamism of our territories, some of which closely trade with the United Kingdom, though our principal shared asset remains the internal market. But without ratification, there will be no withdrawal agreement or transition period. This 'no deal' scenario cannot be ruled out so it is necessary for all regions and cities to be well prepared."

Karl-Heinz Lambertz (BE/PES), the President of the CoR and member of the Belgian Senate representing the German-Speaking Community, said: "The Withdrawal Agreement offers the best compromise in a complicated negotiation, but its impact will still be felt in regions across the EU27 and the UK. There will be no winners from Brexit and the EU must now do everything it can to cushion the losses. Preparedness means involving all levels of government. The EU must now agree a long-term budget that is more ambitious and, to reduce uncertainty, ensure it is agreed ahead of the EU elections. This is another reason why there must be no cuts to regional development funds in the EU budget post-2020. Everyone involved must listen carefully to the regions' call for more inclusive negotiations, especially as several regional parliaments will be involved in agreeing any future trade deal between the EU and the United Kingdom."

Following his speech, Mr Barnier heard the concerns of 33 cities and regions .

Since Mr Barnier addressed the CoR in March 2017, the CoR has conducted a mapping exercise to ascertain the possible impact of the UK's withdrawal on regions and cities. The CoR, which has met representatives from the UK's devolved administrations and local governments. It has also conducted an economic survey of local and regional authorities and local chambers of commerce, and commissioned a study assessing the impact of Brexit on specific regions (in Belgium, Germany, France, Poland, and Spain) and on a number of sectors across the EU (transport, machinery, electronics, food, chemicals, textile and furniture). In May 2018, the CoR adopted a political resolution calling for the EU to ensure that local and regional authorities are not "left to deal on their own" with challenges created by the UK's departure from the EU.

The CoR has called for the EU's budget in 2021-27 to be equivalent to 1.3% of the EU's gross national income after the UK's withdrawal.


Andrew Gardner

Tel. +32 473. 843 981

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