The UK’s departure will have an major impact on the EU’s regions and cities, the Committee of the Regions has warned. The Committee has urged the European Commission to consider setting up a regional stabilisation fund before 29 March 2019.
The CoR has been carrying out studies to assess the effect of Brexit in regions and cities. The results point out that, along with Ireland, regions of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France are particularly vulnerable.
In a resolution unanimously approved on Wednesday (17 May), the CoR urged the Commission to assess if a stabilisation fund might be needed.
“The UK’s departure from the EU on 29 March 2019 risks creating major troubles for local and regional authorities across the EU. So far, there has been too little focus in the talks on the implications of Brexit for regions and cities across Europe,” said Karl-Heinz Lambertz, president of the CoR.
Therefore, the Committee demands that member states and EU institutions to ensure that local and regional authorities are not left alone to deal with these challenges on their own.
CoR ‘concerned’ about cuts on cohesion
Members of the CoR see cohesion policy as a way to overcome the difficulties that Brexit will cause many regions in Europe. They expressed “deep concern” about the Commission’s draft proposal for the next long-term budget with up to 7% cutbacks to regional development spending.
“This is a moment for pragmatism, in the negotiations and in the EU’s post-Brexit budget. Instead, there are proposals to cut our most important solidarity and investment funds – cohesion policy – and we have yet to see evidence that social, agricultural, and fishing funds will be used to soften the impact of Brexit,” president Lambertz said.
In its resolution, the Committee defended its conviction that “a strong Cohesion policy, including reinforced European Territorial Co-operation programmes such as Interreg, is essential for the local and regional authorities in the EU to address adverse consequences of the UK’s withdrawal”.
Furthermore, the CoR insisted, the Commission should also take into account how other EU policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy, could be used to mitigate the negative impact of Brexit when deciding upon their future financing.
UK should remain a regional partner
In the resolution, the CoR also complained about the lack of focus on what the future relationship with the UK would look like at the level of local and regional authorities.
Therefore, the Committee wants the withdrawal agreement to foresee a specific body for the CoR itself to continue its cooperation with the corresponding authorities in the UK during the transition period and beyond.
It also wants the UK to remain an important partner in regional cooperation, which is particularly important when it comes to Ireland, the CoR said.
But the starting point must be to avoid a hard border in Ireland and continue EU programmes – such as EU PEACE and Interreg – that have helped build peace since the Good Friday Agreement,” President Lambertz stated.
The Committee of the Regions insists on the need for local and regional British authorities to access cooperation with their EU counterparts through macro-regional strategies, Interreg and within the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation frameworks beyond 2019.