Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees and other major city leaders will meet with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels next week (Monday 19 February) to discuss how the shared interests of UK cities, local communities and businesses can be best met in the lead up to and after Brexit.
Along with the leaders and mayors representing the Core Cities UK, the ten UK cities at the heart of the biggest urban areas outside London, the Bristol mayor will begin a dialogue to ensure the voices of UK cities are heard as the UK plans for its future relationship with Europe.
The UK cities are promoting local, city interests in Europe in a way which is intended as complementary to ongoing formal national Brexit negotiations. They will be discussing proposals for maintaining a strong relationship with Europe so UK cities can continue to be prosperous. Discussions will include maintaining economic links and growing businesses and jobs; being collaborative through joint research and innovation on issues such as air quality and health; and continuing to be open, cohesive and inclusive cities. Core Cities UK will attend the European Commission Headquarters with the president of the European cities network, EUROCITIES, meaning roughly 200 urban centres will be represented at the meeting.
The Core Cities urban areas are home to 20 million people and generate 25% of the UK economy. They are home to more than a quarter of UK businesses, deliver 29% of UK international trade and host 37.5% of UK university students.
They are also the UK’s most significant international centres for trade outside London. It is estimated Core Cities exported over £72 billion in 2016, of which 48% was to the EU, and 52% to non-EU countries.
Bristol, one of the UK core cities, is an international city where over 91 languages are spoken amongst the city’s population of 450,000 and 1.1 million people living in the wider city region.
Bristol also has a higher than average share of exports to the EU – at 88% of all exports. The top twenty businesses in Bristol with significant trading links into the EU, such as selling goods or services in Europe, using supply chain links in Europe, or with offices in Europe, employ 10,000 people in the city.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mayor Marvin Rees said: “Bristol is an international city. People speak 91 languages, come from 187 countries, and practice at least 45 religions. Our diversity is an asset which we need to build on – and strengthening our dialogue with Europe is part of that fundamental work.
“However, as negotiations progress we must be sure that UK cities such as Bristol have strong relationships within Europe and that our voice is heard. We will be calling on UK government to lend a similarly listening ear.
“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.”
Cllr Judith Blake, chair of Core Cities UK and Leader of Leeds City Council, added: “Negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU is a matter for the UK Government and our meeting with Michel Barnier isn’t to discuss that process.
“Our joint meeting, together with EUROCITIES, is to promote the interests of our local communities, businesses and institutions in future links with other European cities. We already have strong links with these cities which are important for local jobs. We also have a responsibility to make sure the voice of local people is heard.
“Growth from the Core Cities will play a critical role to the success of the UK’s post-Brexit economy. The UK needs to increase its productivity by giving our cities the freedoms they need. If all our cities performed just at the national economic average, it would put an additional £70-£90 billion into the economy every year.
“International evidence suggests that the most productive cities have the most power over spending on local priorities. Our message to the Government is to deliver a domestic reform agenda that allows cities to take back control on issues such as skills and local economic development.”
Through its partnership with EUROCITIES Core Cities will also be urging other European urban areas to highlight to their Governments the importance of a positive relationship between cities.
Core Cities plans to share the outcome of the discussion with UK ministers and shadow ministers.