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Core Cities leaders press for domestic post-Brexit agenda after meeting with Barnier

Leaders and mayors representing Core Cities UK have met with the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier this week.

The Brussels meeting saw leaders of the 10 largest urban areas outside London discuss how the shared interests of their cities, local communities and businesses can best be met following Brexit.

The Core Cities urban areas have a population of 20 million people, generate 25% of the UK economy and deliver 29% of UK international trade.

President of the European cities network Eurocities also attended the meeting, meaning that around 200 European urban centres were represented.

Cllr Judith Blake, chair of Core Cities UK and leader of Leeds City Council, said that the purpose of the meeting was to promote the interests of the organisation’s local communities, businesses and institutions in future links with Europeans cities.

“We already have strong links with these cities which are important for local jobs,” she explained. “We also have a responsibility to make sure the voice of local people is heard.”

She said the growth from the Core Cities will play a “critical role” in the success of the UK’s economy following Brexit, and that cities must be given the freedoms they need for the UK is to increase its productivity.

“If all our places performed just at the national economic average, it would put an additional £70-£90bn into the economy every year,” added Blake. “International evidence suggests that the most productive cities have the most power over spending on local priorities.

“Our message to government is to deliver a domestic reform agenda that allows cities to take back control on issues such as skills and local economic development.”

Marvin Rees, Bristol’s mayor, explained that as Brexit negotiations press on, UK cities must have strong relationships within Europe.

“We will be calling on UK government to lend a similarly listening ear,” he added. “All around the world, cities are stepping up to offer governance at a more local level, closer to the people it serves.

“We will be looking at how we continue that work in Europe to collaborate on solving common city challenges and to strengthen economic and research ties.”

And the leader of Cardiff Council, Cllr Huw Thomas, warned: “There is little doubt that Brexit will hurt our capital city; 61% of the city’s exports go to EU countries. We are among the top five British cities which are most reliant on EU markets. Many Cardiff firms rely on workers from EU countries, particularly those in construction, retail, hospitality, health and social care.”

“Working with Eurocities can help us achieve this and can give us opportunities to learn how we can boost our productivity and improve our own competitiveness after Britain has left the EU.

“It's essential that Cardiff remains open and outward looking. We want to continue to grow business and jobs over the years ahead. To do that it is imperative that positive relationships with European cities, organisations, partners and networks can continue in the future for the benefit of Cardiff and our Core Cities partners as well as the interests of cities across the EU.”

The outcomes of the meeting will be shared with ministers and shadow ministers.

Top image: Micro Stock Hub 

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