It was an inevitable consequence of what looked like a tailor-made deal for Northern Ireland post-Brexit that other devolved parts of the United Kingdom started to make their bid for things to be done differently.
In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said there is ‘no good reason’ why the Scots should not get a similar Brexit deal to Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for the city to be given a similar deal to Northern Ireland that would allow it to stay in the single market and customs union after Brexit.
Even in Wales, which voted to leave in the referendum, the First Minister Carwyn Jones said ‘we cannot allow different parts of the UK to be more favourably treated than others’.
Yorkshire, of course, has no collective voice when it comes to these matters and, as with the negotiations as a whole, we are left on the sidelines unable to influence the argument and incapable of having Yorkshire’s best interests represented.
If one part of the UK is granted continued participation in the single market and customs union, then I would fully expect the same offer to be made to Yorkshire. If not, then why should it be our companies which are put at a disadvantage when it comes to trading with the EU in the future?
The scenario here is that because companies in other parts of the UK will have the same regulations for their products as their counterparts in the EU they will be able to trade freely,
while those in other parts of the UK, such as Yorkshire, will face tariffs and quotas for their goods.
This could cause a massive disruption in the UK economy, with Yorkshire suffering a heavy blow. It goes further. Yorkshire’s universities are rightly worried about future research funding.
As The Yorkshire Post recently reported, institutions in the region have received over £160m in funding from Brussels since 2014 through the EU Horizon 2020 programme.
The Government has already committed to underwriting any successful Horizon grant bids, which is good news, but it is what happens afterwards which is most worrying to Yorkshire’s academic institutions. They want to know what sort of funding they will get beyond 2020.
In the Government’s much-heralded Industrial Strategy, published last week, it was stated that the UK had attracted more than £3bn, businesses and universities and the document went on to say ‘the UK has signalled its desire to seek a far-reaching science and innovation agreement with the EU that establishes a framework for future’.
However, other events last week showed us that we should not expect the EU to embrace us warmly when it comes to future collaboration.Leeds was among five cities in the UK bidding to win the title in the European Capital of Culture 2023 competition, with the winner expected to be announced this week.
However, it emerged that the European Commission has told the UK Government that a British city cannot hold the title in 2023 due to Brexit. I have written to the Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, seeking urgent answers on how the Government will resolve the exclusion of Leeds.
The city has put a considerable amount of time, effort and expense into its bid and residents are excited about the many benefits it would generate in Leeds, Yorkshire, the rest of the UK and Europe.
I have also written to Martine Reicherts, director general for education, youth sport and culture at the European Commission, urging her to reconsider the decision not to allow Leeds to participate.
While I understand that our future relationship with Brussels is by no means clear, I would say – whatever the outcome – that cultural collaboration is an area which must continue to form part of the UK’s future partnership with the EU. In that vein, I am urging her to reconsider this decision.
Above all else though, not having a single strong voice for Yorkshire makes it difficult for Leeds’s concerns to be heard either in London or Brussels.
Devolved parts of the UK are jockeying – rightly – to get what is best for their communities.
In my opinion, agreement on the One Yorkshire devolution deal can’t come soon enough so as to give us a voice in the future, in our future, before the opportunity is gone.
Stewart Arnold is leader of the Yorkshire Party