Burnham: ‘All of North needs Brexit voice’

Andy Burnham

BREXIT SECRETARY David Davis has been told he should listen to all parts of the North as the Government negotiates with Brussels.

Mr Davis met with the North’s three metro-mayors in York yesterday to discuss their Brexit priorities.

Yorkshire’s failure to agree the ‘devolution deals’ which produce metro-mayors meant the region was not represented.

Speaking after the meeting, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: “Are we going to be the conduit for the North? In our view it should be all of the North is represented in these talks.”

The idea of a body representing the North of England emerged out of a summit of senior council figures in Leeds in August and Mr Burnham indicated that could take the lead.

Mr Burnham was joined by Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram and their Tees Valley counterpart Ben Houchen at the meeting where they asked Mr Davis for greater certainty over the future of funding currently provided by Brussels.

Yorkshire receives around £100m a year from the European Union and the Government is committed to replacing it through a new ‘UK shared prosperity fund’ after Brexit.

Mr Burnham said they had asked Mr Davis for a commitment in the upcoming Budget for funding at the current level for the next 10 years.

The mayors also asked for the new prosperity fund to be put in local hands.

He said: “Embracing devolutio has got to be a part, a big part, of the response to the referendum. I think what came through at the referendum was an underlying sentiment that is very strong in parts of the country that the old system of Westminster and Brussels together worked better for some areas than it did for others.

“I’ve been saying to all the Cabinet as I’ve met them, that as politics at a national level becomes more and more mired in this debate they should let positive energy flow into the process of devolution and put some real drive behind their own policy.”

Mr Burnham said northern leaders were concerned the Government could pursue a “London-centric Brexit”.

“There’s a fear that the City of London and the financial sector, with Europe knowing that we want to protect that they may seek concessions elsewhere from the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector or automotive or digital.

“Those trade-offs are what worry us very greatly.”

During a visit to Yorkshire to take part in an event organised by Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer echoed Mr Burnham’s concerns.

He said: “Brexit will affect communities right across Yorkshire. Ministers must do more to ensure every region of the country has a voice in these crucial negotiations.

“Labour understand the importance of local input in the Brexit talks.”

In a statement, Mr Davis described the discussions in York as “productive”.

He said the Government would continue to work with metro-mayors to understand the “potential challenges and opportunities that leaving the EU presents to each of the regions”.

He said: “As we continue to make decisive steps towards our exit, we are committed to bringing all of the UK with us – ensuring that every region is able to flourish.”

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