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Liverpool and Manchester leaders meet EU negotiator Michel Barnier

Liverpool and Manchester leaders met EU negotiator Michel Barnier to discuss how the cities’ interests can be met around Brexit.

They were among representatives of Core Cities UK – the 10 UK cities within the biggest urban areas outside of London – who attended the meeting in Brussels yesterday (19 February).

The delegation aimed to discuss how the shared interests of their cities, local communities and businesses can be best met during the lead up to and also after Britain has exited the European Union.

Having attended the European Commission Headquarters with the president of the European cities network, EUROCITIES, Core Cities UK took to Twitter and said: “Our chair Councillor Judith Blake thanks Michel Barnier for a constructive meeting talking about how cities across Europe can grow and work together into the future.”

Leaders and mayors from Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and Newcastle were also among the Core Cities UK team.

The core cities urban areas are home to 20 million people and are said to generate 25% of the UK economy. They’re also home to more than a quarter of UK businesses, deliver 29% of UK international trade and host 37.5% of UK university students.

Prior to the Brussels meeting, Cllr Judith Blake, who is also leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU is a matter for the UK government and our meeting with Michel Barnier isn’t to discuss that process.

“Our joint meeting, together with EUROCITIES, is to promote the interests of our local communities, businesses and institutions in future links with other European cities. We already have strong links with these cities which are important for local jobs.  We also have a responsibility to make sure the voice of local people is heard.

“Growth from the core cities will play a critical role to the success of the UK’s post-Brexit economy. The UK needs to increase its productivity by giving our cities the freedoms they need. If all our cities performed just at the national economic average, it would put an additional £70-£90 billion into the economy every year.

“International evidence suggests that the most productive cities have the most power over spending on local priorities. Our message to the government is to deliver a domestic reform agenda that allows cities to take back control on issues such as skills and local economic development.”

Cllr Sue Murphy, Manchester City Council’s deputy leader, added: “This delegation is not about undermining Brexit. It is about maintaining links and good relations with European partner cities following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

“This is vital for future trading – regardless of what the Brexit deal looks like – and we want to ensure we can ensure our relationships remain open and positive, to share ideas and opportunities.”

Core Cities UK plans to share the outcome of the discussion with ministers and shadow ministers.