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President of EU's local and regional politicians: a hard border after Brexit will have hard consequences  
Local and regional leaders from across Europe gathered in Brussels to discuss the impact of Brexit on regions, cities, towns and villages in the EU-27. The debate held by the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels focused on the social, economic and political consequences of Brexit for local and regional governments, the future of the Republic of Ireland-Northern Ireland border and its implications for citizenship. During the discussions, the Committee's President spoke against the creation of a hard border and argued that Brexit should not in any way endanger the size and significance of cohesion policy in the future EU budget. The Committees' First-Vice President further called for new forms of cooperation between local and regional governments in the UK and the EU-27 are put in place to ensure relations continue long after the UK leaves the Union.

"A hard border will have hard consequences"

Karl Heinz-Lambertz , President of the European Committee of the Regions – the EU's political assembly of local and regional governments - was speaking in the plenary session debate on 30 November where regional presidents, mayors and councillors identified specific challenges raised by the prospect of Brexit. On the issue of UK-Irish relations, a topic to be central to the debate between national leaders when they meet in Brussels on 14-15 December, President Lambertz said: "Introducing a hard border will have hard consequences for regions, cities and their citizens in both the UK and the EU-27. From trade to tourism to agriculture to the lives of thousands of daily border commuters, such possible upheaval will be costly to regions and cities on both sides of this regrettable divorce. There needs to be an innovative solution to maintain the flow of goods and people that works for everyone after the UK leaves the European Union"

"Brexit must not diminish EU cohesion policy"

President Lambertz spoke of the economic implications of Brexit on the future EU budget, "Brexit should not be used as the pretext to diminish the role of EU cohesion policy which creates jobs, offers training, invests in infrastructure and reinforces public services for all Europeans. Europe needs to continue to invest in people, in its territories, in its regions and in its cities which is why it must remain the same percentage of the EU budget as it is today. This is why we launched the #CohesionAlliance – a growing coalition of local and regional politicians, territorial associations, businesses, civil society organisations, MEPs and government ministers who demand a strong, more visible and effective EU cohesion policy in the future of Europe"

Local and regional governments will continue to cooperate long after the UK leaves the EU

The UK's planned departure also throws into question the future relationship of the cities and regions of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with their counterparts in the rest of the European Union. The Committee's First Vice-President, Markku Markkula, added, "English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish authorities have worked closely together within the EU for over 40 years. The European Committee of the Regions regrets that, after Brexit, the relationship will need to change. As an EU institution, we are determined to maintain cooperation – through, perhaps, macro-regional strategies, a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation. Together, we need to try to ease the difficulties of separation and respond to the shared global challenges faced by regions and cities of the 21st century such as economical, ecological, social and cultural dimensions of sustainable growth - together we are stronger."

Other speakers who took part in the debate with the Committee's members included Madrid's Regional President, Cristina Cifuentes , who discussed the socio-economic impact of Brexit for regions and cities; Brian Hayes MEP (IE/EPP) who led discussions on the challenge of external borders; and two local politicians elected outside their home country: Guilherme Rosa, a Portuguese citizen who is now deputy mayor of Lambeth Council in London, and Derek Monks, a British citizen who is a local councillor in Rojales in the Spanish province of Alicante, who commented on the complexities Brexit will have on European citizenship.

More info: The European Committee of the Regions & the likely impact of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union for local and regional authorities



Andrew Gardner

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