UK-EU Contact Group chaired by President of Brittany region to step up local and regional partnerships and ensure adequate EU financial support for heavily impacted regions
During an online debate in Brussels the President of the European Committee of the Regions – Apostolos Tzitzikostas - and the Mayor of London – Sadiq Khan – called on the UK and EU negotiators to continue talks until a trade deal was agreed. They warned that a no deal would have a catastrophic impact, causing a detrimental ''lose-lose'' spiral for many regions and cities in the EU and the UK. The Mayor of London called for an immediate extension of the transition period if a trade deal cannot be agreed as part of ongoing negotiations. EU and UK local and regional governments also committed to stepping up joint efforts to mitigate Brexit and cooperate long into the future on issues such as climate change and migration.
With less than three weeks to go before the end of the UK's transition period and the future UK-EU trade deal on a knife edge, EU local and regional leaders and the Mayor of London raised concerns about the severe implications of a no-deal. They committed to working closely together, to ensure that the territorial impact of Brexit is regularly assessed and to work together on areas of mutual interest into the future.
Apostolos Tzitzikostas, the President of the European Committee of the Regions and Governor of the Greek region of Central Macedonia, warned, "A no-deal will be catastrophic for many regions and a potent mix for regional economies during the pandemic. Local and regional governments will be the first to witness the consequences of this final Brexit negotiation on people's lives. It will take many years to establish new boundaries and to understand what this separation means for us all. Together with the city of London, cities and regions in the UK and the EU regions and cities will work shoulder-to-shoulder to find ways to smooth and mitigate the impact on our respective communities".
Speaking during the debate Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, remarked: "Brexit has happened and we have an obligation to look to the future, not the past. We need to work together on shared challenges – across cities, regions and countries. I want to ensure London remains a key partner for Brussels and every European city, region and national. If a trade deal cannot be reached in the next few days, I'd urge Boris Johnson and the EU to extend the transition period. A no-deal outcome should simply not be an option. It would be a lose-lose situation for both the UK and the EU – costing jobs, reducing growth and hitting living standards across Europe just when we're at a crucial point in our fight against the pandemic."
Members of the CoR discussed ways of maintaining and developing relations with the UK's devolved administrations and local and regional authorities in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. The chair of the recently created CoR-UK Contact Group, Loïg Chesnais-Girard (FR/PES), President of Brittany's regional council, said: "Local and regional politicians on both sides of the Channel share an interest in limiting the damage to their regional and local economies. To achieve that, we must champion cross-border cooperation in our contacts with national governments and the EU. Within the EU, the Brexit Adjustment Reserve offers us a cushion to the most affected areas. I call on the EU to be prepared to provide more money if – as is likely – the impact of Brexit exceeds €5 billion. This Covid-Brexit cocktail is very, very toxic, and we need to stand together, economically as well as politically."
In the midst of the ongoing EU-UK negotiations, Michel Barnier, Head of the Task Force for Relations with the UK, also sent a message: "We keep working for an ambitious partnership between the EU and the UK which would help people, local communities, and also businesses and regions, to pursue their cooperation in the best possible way in the future. But, while we remain open to finding mutually beneficial solutions, as we always have been, the EU will not make a deal at any price. Any deal would have to preserve our single market and the long-term economic interests of EU citizens, businesses and regions. For the moment, we still have major divergences, on the well-known issues of level playing field, governance and fisheries. The next days will be very important. In any event, we should all continue the preparations for all scenarios, including a no-deal on 1 January 2021."
In 2018, the CoR carried out surveys of its members and of other local and regional authorities and local chambers of commerce about the effects of Brexit, published in a consolidated report. This included the results of a study of sectors and regions most exposed to changes in economic ties with the UK. These sectors included food, transport vehicles, machinery, electronics, textiles and furniture. Particularly exposed regions included all Irish regions, Hauts-de-France and Brittany in France, the Malopolskie and Lubelskie voivodships in Poland, the State of Hesse in Germany, Flanders in Belgium, and Andalucia in Spain. Individual industrial sectors at particular risk were identified in Italy's Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Marche regions, the Midi-Pyrénées and Auvergne in France, and in regions in Germany, the Netherlands Portugal, Slovakia, Czechia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece.
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