Friday

16th Nov 2018

European cities vow loyalty to the UK despite Brexit

  • Milan hosts the 2016 Eurocities congress. (Photo: Mariano Mantel)

Mayors of some of Europe’s largest cities have committed themselves to good relations with British cities after Brexit.

“Despite the Brexit vote, we see a future for UK cities in [the European project]. Like other European cities, they are economic drivers, centres of knowledge, innovation and excellence, and examples of how diversity and integration can thrive," 135 mayors, members of the Eurocities network, wrote in an open letter to EU leaders last week.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Many UK city leaders are determined to demonstrate that their cities are open for business and trade, and remain welcoming, tolerant and diverse places,” they added.

“Most larger cities in the UK voted to remain,” Daniel Termont, mayor of Ghent and incoming president of Eurocities, said last Friday (18 November), from Milan, where Eurocities was holding its annual congress.

“They see themselves as part of Europe. We want them to stay in our network and work with them in the future, even if they won't have access to the full benefits of an EU membership,” he added.

The platform counts thirteen British members, including London, Edinburgh and Birmingham - England’s second-largest city - which backed Brexit by a razor-thin 3,800 votes.

Birmingham was one of six founding members of Eurocities 30 years ago and currently sits on its executive committee.

The newest UK member is Leeds, voted in at the network’s annual general meeting last Friday (18 November).

“We applied as a result of the Brexit vote,” said Judith Blake, leader of Leeds city council.

She says it was a shame that cities hadn't been more prominent in the EU referendum campaign.

“If it were more widely known that cities all over Europe are unhappy with the way the EU works, and wanted to reform it, maybe the vote could have gone another way,” Blake told this website.

Cities can bridge the European gaps

In their open letter, the mayors called for a rethink of the European project in the wake of the Brexit vote.

“We must learn the lessons,” they write.

“We need to rethink the way we do things in Europe… There is a growing disconnect between citizens and the EU institutions. What does the EU really do for us? Why does it matter? These are the questions asked by our citizens,” the mayors say.

"We, city leaders, can bridge this gap... We have our finger on the pulse of the local population, we know people's interests, concerns and visions. And by working with us, so can you," they add.

In a welcome address to the participants, Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala said EU institutions’ attempts to connect with EU citizens - through a ten-points programme and publicity of the EU - just didn't work.

“I was critical in my speech because I deeply care about the EU,” Sala later explained to this website,

“I know how people are talking about the European project. They don't see the benefits of the EU, just a cost and bureaucracy,” he added.

“That’s where cities can come in and be a bridge.”

Yet the EU still deals primarily with the 28 national governments rather than cities. They receive funding from the EU, for instance, for the integration of refugees.

“That approach doesn't work,” said Daniel Termont, the socialist mayor of Ghent, in Belgium, who was elected the next president of Eurocities last Friday.

“In Belgium, the federal government is right-wing. They don't give us anything. That's why we would prefer that the EU commission is dealing with us directly,” he told EUobserver.

Nonetheless, Ghent has agreed to relocate 30 asylum seekers from Athens in a gesture of solidarity.

"Cities have proved again and again they can find solutions to the problems, which member states are bickering about for years," he said. "It's in the cities that the spirit of Europe is alive."

Eurocities will organise a new summit in Brussels on 7 March to continue the debate on the role of European cities.

Cities demand access to EU migration funds

Cities are struggling to deal with the influx of refugees and asylum seekers, but EU funds go to national governments, and mayors complain they are getting no help.

Britain can't pick and choose Brexit deal, MEPs say

Leaders of the European Parliament said they won't accept any deal that hurts the free flow of people within the EU single market after their first meeting with British Brexit minister, David Davis.

Opinion

Cohesion policy for a stronger Europe

City partnerships and other new initiatives are good examples of how EU cohesion policy funds benefit European citizens.

Magazine

A deep dive into the EU regional funds

While the regional funds account for a full third of the EU budget, they are somewhat under-reported. EUobserver's latest edition of the Regions & Cities magazine looks at the EU's cohesion policy.

Magazine

A tourist's guide to EU-funded Amsterdam

When it comes to projects paid for by EU regional funds, most people think of roads in Romania or bridges in Bulgaria. But richer regions also receive money. EUobserver takes you on a tour of selected projects in Amsterdam.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  2. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  3. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  4. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  5. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  6. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  7. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May
  8. Denmark blocks Tanzania aid over homophobic crackdown

Magazine

A deep dive into the EU regional funds

While the regional funds account for a full third of the EU budget, they are somewhat under-reported. EUobserver's latest edition of the Regions & Cities magazine looks at the EU's cohesion policy.

Magazine

The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  2. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  3. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  4. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  5. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  6. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  7. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot
  8. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us