August 1, 2021

Andy Burnham demands English regions have say in Brexit talks

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By Josh Halliday From The guardian UK

Greater Manchester mayor says he fears London-centric approach by ministers is prioritising the City above other industries

Regions across England should have a permanent seat at the table in Brexit discussions to guard against the government’s “London-centric” approach, theGreater Manchester mayor has said.

Andy Burnham said Westminster had failed the north of England and that he feared ministers were prioritising the City of London above other industries in their Brexit strategy.

Speaking on Sunday with Niall Paterson on Sky News, the Labour mayor said: “There’s a committee with the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands but no permanent seat for the English regions.

“Quite frankly, that’s not good enough. I am worried we will get the same old story with a London-centric approach to Brexit where the government protects the City of London above other industries and that’s our fear. To guard against that, we need a seat at the table.”

The devolved nations of the UK, as well as its overseas territories, meet formally and regularly with the government, but no such arrangements are in place for the English regions.

Burnham has previously expressed anger that the Cayman Islands, with a population smaller than Bury and an area smaller than the Isle of Wight, has “more of a say” over the Brexit negotiations than Greater Manchester, which has a population of 2.8 million.

In July, he wrote to David Davis to ask the Brexit secretary to establish a monthly cabinet committee of metro mayors and other leaders from the English regions.

Speaking on Sunday, he said: “Westminster, in my view, has failed the north of England.

“It’s given us a second-class transport system, housing and homeless crisis, an education system that obsess [sic] on the university route and neglects those with technical skills and in the past it’s focused on service industries and sold manufacturing down the river.”

Town hall leaders across the north have grown frustrated at the perceived lack of commitment from the government that they will be listened to in the Brexit process.

In February, council leaders from Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield and the Tees Valley issued a collective demand for a “seat at the table” in the discussions.

Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds city council, said her biggest fear was that any “repatriated” money would not be devolved to the regions after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

IMAGE: Andy Burnham says Westminster has failed the north of England. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

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