PES Group members took an active part in the debate on the impact of Brexit on cities and regions. The debate was held at the CoR's plenary session and focused on challenges for external borders, the socio-economic impact of Brexit and its implications for citizenship.
Opening the debate, CoR President Karl‑Heinz Lambertz (PES/Belgium) stressed that "Introducing a hard border will have hard consequences for regions, cities and their citizens in both the UK and in the EU-27. There needs to be an innovative solution to maintain the flow of goods and people which will work for everyone after the UK leaves the European Union. Likewise, Brexit should not be used as a pretext to diminish the role of the EU's cohesion policy which creates jobs, offers trainings, invests in infrastructures and reinforces public services for all Europeans".
PES member Gerry Woop, Berlin State-Secretary for Europe (Germany), pointed to the negative consequences of Brexit on research and education. "Berlin is a leading science and research hub and we closely cooperate with universities and research institutions in the UK, also through EU co-funded programmes. Likewise, thousands of students have taken part in an Erasmus exchange programme in the UK. We must thus make sure that there is a European solution to continue this fruitful exchange, especially for young people ", he stressed.
He was joined by Alain Hutchinson (PES/Belgium), Brussels Commissioner for European Affairs and CoR representative in the jury for the European Capitals of Culture, who emphasised that many local and regional authorities would be deprived of their access to EU funds (also in the field of culture) and regretted the Commission's decision to cancel Britain's hosting of the European Capital of Culture in 2023.
Irish PES member Mary Freehill, Member of the Dublin City Council (Ireland), expressed her concerns about the future relations between Northern and Southern Ireland. "Every day, around 30,000 people go back and forth to work on the other side of the border. A hard border would thus seriously threaten the peace in Northern Ireland".
Jennette Arnold, Assembly Member of the Greater London Authority (PES/UK), pointed to the negative social-economic impact of Brexit, including in the health, social care, construction and creative industry sectors; and Albert Bore, member of the Birmingham City Council, called for new forms of cooperation between local and regional governments in the UK and the EU-27 to be put in place in order to ensure close future relations.
Joan Calabuig Rull, Delegate for the European Union and External Relations of the Valencian Government (PES/Spain), stressed the need to guarantee the fundamental rights of citizens. "More than 100,000 UK nationals live in the Valencia region, most of them being elderly people. They feel at home there. Therefore, we have to ensure a legal certainty for them and make sure that their rights, especially health service ones, are guaranteed."