Metro mayors: Our voices are not being heard in Brexit talks

21 Mar 18

Mayors have expressed their frustration at a lack of dialogue between central and local government in Brexit negotiations, at a select committee hearing.  

Andy Burnham, mayor for Greater Manchester, claimed central government was keeping local authorities “in the dark”, at the communities and local government select committee meeting on Monday.

He said Brexit secretary David Davis’ one meeting with the mayors in the North on England was not “meaningful engagement”.

“This is not meaningful engagement, particularly given there is a cabinet committee for the devolved administrations and even British overseas territories are represented on a Brexit committee,” he told the committee of MPs.

“There should be equal access for all English regions into this discussion and so far it has been woefully inadequate.”

Burnham suggested that local government voices being heard in debate is “random” and he said there needs to be “an ongoing structured dialogue” between local and central government.

 “Westminster is repeating- in its handling of Brexit- the things that I would argue gave rise to Brexit, which is a Westminster-centric approach to life,” the mayor of Greater Manchester said.  

He called for “deeper devolution” across the country.

James Palmer, mayor of Cambridge and Peterborough, agreed, saying: “I would like to have more input, if I’m honest. I think that there is more that government could do.”

He said Brexit was an opportunity for mayors to “spread our wings beyond just the European Union” and secure trade deals with other international partners.

But Ben Houchen, mayor of Tees Valley, believed his engagement with central government had been “strong”.

“I have had very strong engagement from wider government…I have spoken to David Davis on multiple occasions,” he told the committee.

In February, leaders from some of the UK’s largest cities met with Michel Barnier to have their voices heard in Brexit negotiations.

A spokesperson for DExEU told Public Finance: “We are negotiating for every nation and region of the United Kingdom- our goal is to secure a deal that works for all parts of the country.

“Ministers from across government have carried out extensive engagement on EU exit with businesses and industry bodies from all sectors of the economy and all regions of the UK.

“The secretary of state and his ministers meet with regional mayors to ensure they are kept up to speed and this consultation will continue throughout the negotiations.”

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