Government faces fresh calls to involve local leaders in Brexit process

Secretary of State for Brexit, David Davis
Secretary of State for Brexit, David Davis
Have your say

Yorkshire MPs have sought further assurances about the role of local councils in shaping the Government's Brexit plans, as ministers dismiss claims they are “putting the regions to one side”.

Responding to the publications of the Government's Brexit White Paper, The Sheffield MP Clive Betts expressed concern about the lack of any clear involvement for local authorities throughout the process.

His comments follow an outcry by local council leaders after the Downing Street turned down their request to meet with the Prime Minister to discuss the impact of her negotiation strategy on the North.

It also follows David Davis' announcement that he will meet with northern representatives to discuss Brexit in York – but indicated this would only involve the region's directly-elected mayors.

Presenting the white paper to the Commons today, Mr Davis said the 77-page document confirmed Theresa May's vision of "an independent and truly global United Kingdom".

This includes the 12 principles “that will guide the Government” in negotiations, including controlling immigration, ensuring free trade with European markets and securing rights for EU nationals in the UK.

He stated that the Government will now continue its consultations with “business, civil society, the public sector and representatives of the regions” in order to “build a consensus” around its position.

“Whatever the outcome of our negotiations, we seek a more open, outward-looking, confident and fairer UK that works for everyone,” he said.

However, Mr Betts, who chairs the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, challenged the Secretary of State over these claims, complaining that the paper lacked “a single reference” to the role or influence of councils.

He called on the Government to agree to “meaningful discussions” with local government representatives, and to restate its commitment to devolution.

Mr Davis replied that ministers have already met the Local Government Association and sent out invitations to meet with other local councils.

He urged Mr Betts to “take it as read we are not putting the regions to one side”.

The publication of the white paper comes ahead of next week's deciding vote in the Commons on the triggering of Article 50.

Two Labour Yorkshire MPs, Angela Smith and Barry Sheerman, have tabled an amendment to the Brexit Bill calling for the creation of a National Convention that includes representatives from across “Government, regions and sectors”.

The motion says these representatives should “meet and produce a report recommending negotiating priorities to better reflect the needs of the regions of the UK”.