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Devolution could ‘come to a standstill’ following Brexit, says Centre for Cities

British devolution risks coming “to a standstill” following the vote for the UK to leave the European Union, the CEO of think tank Centre for Cities has warned.

Thursday’s referendum delivered a 52% vote in favour of leaving the EU, causing David Cameron to resign as prime minister and £120bn to be wiped off the FTSE 100.

Alexandra Jones said: “Now that the result of the referendum is clear, we need to focus on what happens next. It’s too early to understand the full implications of Brexit for places across the country, but the political and economic uncertainty ahead will clearly have a huge impact on the future of UK city economies.”

She added that there are “big questions” about how Brexit will affect cities which have historically relied on EU funding to strengthen their economies, as well as places which have been able to attract international jobs and investment partly due to the UK’s membership of the Single Market.

“There is also a serious risk that the government’s devolution agenda will come to a standstill, with the political focus likely to shift to moving powers from Brussels to Westminster, rather than empowering UK cities to grow their economies,” said Jones.

“In the weeks ahead, it’s vital that political leaders seek to provide as much clarity and certainty on these issues as possible, and demonstrate that UK cities remain open for trade, talent and investment.”

Jones’ concerns echo warnings from the leaders of devolved bodies including Cornwall and the Tees Valley, who have called for compensation for any loss of funding from the EU.

The UK’s devolution policy has already come under criticism, with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Reform, Decentralisation and Devolution calling it ‘piecemeal and incoherent’.

A Centre for Cities report last month used the economies of the Rhine-Ruhr and Randstad regions of Germany and the Netherlands as a template for Northern Powerhouse investment, arguing that it should focus on the major cities. The latest edition of PSE features an article by Jones on the report.

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