European Committee of the Regions call for a better appreciation of the role of local and regional authorities in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, welcomed the ambition of the Committee of the Regions and its members to cooperate with the UK at the local and regional level, albeit within the confines of the type of Brexit chosen by the UK government.
On the 27th April the Committee of the Regions adopted Cllr Michael Murphy’s opinion “Strengthening the EU-UK relationship at sub-national level and remedying the territorial impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU“. The opinion calls on the EU to “address the lack of territorial depth” in the TCA by involving local and regional governments in the monitoring of the agreement and for the CoR-UK Contact Group to be recognised as an official sub-national interlocutor between EU and UK local and regional governments. The recommendations also called on the EU to add to the €5.4 billion already earmarked to support regions most affected by the trade disruptions caused by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Following Cllr. Murphy’s presentation of the opinion, Commissioner Šefčovič, who is overseeing implementation of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) that entered into force in 2021, spoke. He noted that: “While the Committee has no formal role when it comes to EU international agreements, the Commission’s door is always open to listen to the voice of the regions. We look forward to continuing the regular exchanges we have had with the Committee’s UK Contact Group over the past two years, as we move forward with the implementation of the TCA. And we are already working to support the people and businesses most affected by Brexit. For example, the Peace+ initiative helps finance projects across Northern Ireland and the border counties, which are aimed at reconciling communities and contributing to peace. Including co-financing from Ireland and the United Kingdom, funding under Peace + will amount to more than €1 billion.”
Apostolos Tzitzikostas (EL/EPP), President of the European Committee of the Regions and governor of the region of Central Macedonia, said: “Despite Brexit, ties between the EU and the UK remain strong, and so is the desire to retain and develop relationships, in areas of mutual interest such as tackling the climate emergency and the localisation of the Sustainable Development Goals. European local and regional authorities want to channel their voice into the EU-UK Partnership Council. As we understand, and regret, the internal political reasons why the United Kingdom failed to assure a voice to local democracy in the Joint Partnership Council, we encourage the European Commission to remedy to this by organising a structured consultation with local and regional authorities, through the European Committee of the Regions whenever a topic having territorial impact is tackled.”
Cllr. Michael Murphy said: “Brexit will have a negative impact on territorial cooperation, which forged excellent relationships over decades between the cities and regions of the European Union and the UK. We call on both the European Commission and the UK government to recognise the CoR-UK Contact Group as an official sub-national interlocutor in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. We know that cities and regions are continuing to find new ways of maintaining and developing relationships and this is evident through exchange programmes, bilateral cooperation, EU networks and associations. These relationships are needed to address common challenges that know no borders, such as culture, sustainable management of the seas, and the local and regional implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. We very much welcome this continued cooperation.”
The Brexit Adjustment Reserve has set aside €5.4 billion to cover trade losses and the impact on maritime border regions and for fisheries. The CoR opinion drafted by Councillor Murphy calls for the Reserve to be increased, for the eligibility period to be extended and for assessments of the impact on particular sectors and regions. A recent study commissioned by the CoR — “New trade and economic relations between EU-UK: the impact on regions and cities” – concluded the effects were “asymmetric” but the report also found that “almost all regions in the EU are exposed in at least one of the main EU sectors of specialisation with respect to the UK”.