Local and regional authorities in the European Union must not be "left to deal on their own" with challenges created by the United Kingdom's withdrawal, the European Committee of the Regions said on 17 May in a resolution that voiced concern about the lack of progress in talks between the UK and the EU.
The resolution , which was passed unanimously, "highlights" that there must be no hard border on the island of Ireland. It also argues that, to "mitigate" the negative effects of Brexit on regional economies, the EU should maintain a strong regional development policy, could make use of its agricultural and fisheries policies, and may need to make state-aid rules more flexible. The CoR also calls on the European Commission to assess the "possible need for a stabilisation fund for regions most adversely affected by UK's withdrawal from the EU".
The CoR has no formal role in the negotiations, but some of its members and the authorities they represent will adopt formal positions within their national legal frameworks, including on trade.
Karl-Heinz Lambertz , the president of the CoR, said: "The UK's departure from the EU on 29 March 2019 risks creating major troubles for local and regional authorities across the EU. So far, there has been too little focus in the talks on the implications of Brexit for regions and cities across Europe. Because there is little indication about the future of the UK-EU relationship, local and regional authorities are struggling to make plans. But the starting point must be to avoid a hard border in Ireland and continue EU programmes – such as EU PEACE and Interreg – that have helped build peace since the Good Friday Agreement."
He continued: "This is a moment for pragmatism, in the negotiations and in the EU's post-Brexit budget. Instead, there are proposals to cut our most important solidarity and investment funds – cohesion policy – and we have yet to see evidence that social, agricultural, and fishing funds will be used to soften the impact of Brexit."
President Lambertz and the representatives of the five political groups in the CoR will visit Dublin on 22 May and they will then, on 23 May, travel to Northern Ireland to meet the territory's local-government association and local businesses, as well as to visit the border.
A survey conducted by the CoR of its members and a survey conducted with Eurochambres of a broader selection of local and regional authorities and chambers of commerce across the EU indicate that, after the UK itself, Brexit is expected to have a particularly harsh economic impact on Ireland. The surveys – and an academic study commissioned by the CoR – found that other particularly vulnerable regions are in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. The CoR's work also shows that the majority of regions have not, to date, succeeded in assessing the possible impact of the UK leaving, in particular because of the uncertainty surrounding the negotiations and the future UK-EU relationship.
The CoR's mapping of the implications of Brexit is one result of a commitment, made in a resolution adopted in March 2017 , to "step up its dialogue with the local and regional governments that are most concerned by this process, in order to provide the EU's negotiator with a complete picture of the evolving situation at local and regional level".
Notes to editors :
The " Resolution on the implications of the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union for the EU's local and regional authorities ", adopted by the CoR on 17 May with amendments , addresses a range of economic, social and political issues relating to the expected departure of the UK. These include the position of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU, for whom the CoR demands "assurances that future changes in policy in the EU Member states or in the UK" will not put "rights in jeopardy". Such rights include the "right to healthcare and the mutual recognition of social-security contributions". The resolution specifically highlights economic issues relating to ports, Gibraltar, and the "outermost regions" of the EU, whose "huge dependence" of the British economy may require "special measures". The resolution also considers the possible nature of the EU's future relationship with the UK. It suggests that UK local and regional governments could participate in cooperation programmes in the same way as counterparts in Norway and Iceland do, and that that some existing EU mechanisms – such as macro-regional strategies and European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation – could be used to ease cooperation with UK cities and regions. This would be part of an "ambitious agreement" that sets out a "genuine partnership between the EU and the UK, including but not limited to trade and economic relations". It also notes that EU27 cities and regions "have an interest" in the UK being able to take part in some programmes – "in particular in the fields of education, culture, research, innovation" – and to cooperate with related EU agencies, and in maintaining a "close relationship with regard to security, border and migration management". The CoR, which has created an inter-group for regions most directly affected by Brexit, states its belief that "the CoR is best placed to devise and implement institutional mechanisms to promote regular consultation and interaction with local government and devolved parliaments and assemblies in the UK".
The resolution develops on an earlier position adopted by the CoR in March 2017 , after a speech by and debate with the EU's chief negotiator, European Commissioner Michel Barnier . Over the past 14 months, the CoR has conducted a range of surveys of its members, local and regional authorities and local chambers of commerce, as well as commissioning a study of the implications of Brexit for regional economies. In addition, it held a two-hour debate on Brexit on 30 November, and it has held political consultations with political counterparts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as discussions within the EU27.
Issues that the CoR wished to be addressed in negotiations between the UK and the EU were itemised in the assembly's March 2017 resolution, together with an overarching insistence that there could be "no agreement between a non-EU country and the EU that is better than EU membership". The CoR called for "temporary arrangements so as to minimise disruption to the current long-standing R&D projects, and by extension to local economies" and for "special attention [to] be paid to possible arrangements to mitigate the consequences for all regions and local authorities concerned". It sought clarification "as to whether current UK energy projects, especially those launched by or geared towards local and regional authorities and aiming at CO2 reduction and sustainable energy provision, would continue to be eligible for CEF , EFSI and EIB funding". Regarding the EU's Youth and Education and R&D programmes, the CoR called for negotiators to "consider appropriate solutions via the so-called 'partner countries' approach, which allows for the inclusion of non-EU countries on the basis of bilateral agreements with the EU". It also suggested that the UK's withdrawal could an "opportunity to build a fairer, better and more inclusive EU" and "an opportunity to pursue in-depth reform of the EU budget, taking into account the needs of local and regional government".
Tel. +32 473 843 981