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GM mayor accuses May of ‘snubbing’ the north in Brexit talks

Interim Greater Manchester mayor Tony Lloyd has urged the prime minister, Theresa May, to bring the north of England into the Brexit discussion, accusing her of “snubbing” the region.

The prime minister has refused to discuss Brexit with northern leaders despite regularly visiting Wales and Scotland to meet with the leaders of other devolved administrations, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has said.

Lloyd has called on May to “urgently rethink” her decision, saying that with an economy stronger than Scotland and a population greater than that of London, the north “cannot and will not” be ignored in talks surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU.

“I know that leaders across the north are concerned that while an economically powerful London and an increasingly politically important Scotland are having their say, our voices are being drowned out,” Lloyd said.

“The prime minister cannot claim to want a Brexit deal that works for the whole of the UK but at the same time ignore the north of England. The only way we’ll get a Brexit deal that works for the north is for the PM to speak to the north.”

The prime minister’s refusal to meet Northern leaders was revealed in a letter from Brexit department minister David Jones to Lloyd in response to correspondence he sent to May on behalf of northern leaders in July last year.

The letter, also signed by the leaders of the Liverpool City Region, North East, Sheffield City Region and West Yorkshire combined authorities, congratulated May on her appointment as prime minister and invited May to a meeting in Manchester to discuss the north’s potential role in Brexit negotiations.

“As we negotiate our exit from the European Union, you have made clear that you believe in having an approach and negotiation objectives that include the whole of the United Kingdom,” the initial letter to May read.

“On that point we absolutely agree. It is absolutely vital that the voice of the north of England is heard loud and clear during the Brexit negotiations.”

The northern leaders raised concerns that the north of England is being ignored, “caught between an economically and politically powerful London and an increasingly politically important Scotland”.

Jones’ response to Lloyd dated 11 January this year, and seen by PSE, said that the prime minister would not be able to commit to a meeting with the leaders “due to diary restraints”.

However, Jones added that the Northern Powerhouse minister Andrew Percy will be acting on the region’s behalf “to make sure that the views of the north are well represented” as the government looks to get “the best deal” for the entire UK.

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