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Brexit and Europe

Brexit and Europe

SEEC’s priorities since the June 2016 Referendum have been to work with Government to help secure the best possible future for Britain outside the European Union and to make the case for continued investment in the South East. Between 2000/01 and 2015/16 the South East made the largest net contribution to Treasury of £154.4bn – this helps fund public spending nationwide. Ensuring the South East’s high performing economy can deliver its full potential for growth in jobs, productivity and GVA after Brexit is vital to underpin prosperity UK-wide. Our recent activity has included:

Writing in the Municipal Journal in October 2017, SEEC Chairman Nicolas Heslop highlighted three key areas in which local authorities could work alongside Government to play a key role in averting a skills crisis post-Brexit:

  • Local authorities need direct input into which skills are given precedence in any new system to prioritise migrant workers by skills
  • Councils should have control of a single funding pot for skills and employment investment to target local skills gaps
  • Local authorities should have control of an all-age, locally commissioned careers advice service.

In September 2017 SEEC and the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration (SESPM) wrote to Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis MP and Minister of State for Immigration, Brandon Lewis MP, urging them to prioritise upgrading of border controls for passengers and freight in advance of Brexit. The letter set out SEEC members’ concerns including: ensuring border controls remain in France for vehicles and passengers inbound to the UK via the Port of Dover or Channel Tunnel; a fully tested upgraded E-borders system for passengers should be in place before Brexit; and the need for clarity on any additional burdens placed on local authorities by changes in free trade agreements – such as the requirement to inspect foodstuffs – and how they will be funded.

In June 2017 SEEC and the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration (SESPM) held a workshop on Brexit, migration and skills to help local authorities here understand and plan for the impact of Brexit on migration, border security and potential skills gaps in the South East.

In November 2016, SEEC’s submission to an LGA call for input on Brexit concerns and priorities focussed on 4 key areas:

  • Supporting businesses by maintaining access to European markets and minimal tariffs, and investment in infrastructure
  • Maintaining access to project funding that would have previously come from the EU
  • Allowing councils to take on responsibilities for former-EU legislation/ powers, where they can deliver some services and functions better or differently than EU standards and with less bureaucracy
  • Ensuring current South East skills and labour shortages are not exacerbated, and supporting up-skilling of UK workers.

Earlier Work

Prior to the June 2016 Referendum and subsequent decision to leave the EU, SEEC’s priorities were to ensure the South East of England continued to have access to European funding and to work to reduce the burden of European regulation on local authorities.

At the SEEC Executive meeting in March 2015, Russell Reefer (Adviser, Growth and International Policy, LGA) gave an update on EU Funding- his presentation slides are available here.

Funding

Our influencing has helped make sure that the South East has access to EU structural funds for the period 2014-2020. Funding allocations announced in 2013 reflect SEEC views and confirm that structural funds will continue to be available to the South East.

In April 2014 SEEC produced an overview report of LEPs’ proposals for local EU funding opportunities from 2014, available below:

High level Executive Summary

Main report, including 2-side summaries for each LEP’s funding proposals

Main report, including 2-side summaries for each LEP’s funding proposals PLUS more detailed LEP summaries in an annex (note, this is a large document 79 pages long)

Members have consistently made the case for funding and to stress the importance of involving elected local councillors in managing that funding.   A brief statement of SEEC’s views, set out in a letter to Government, is available here as well as our letter on 2013-20 funding.

We have hosted Richard Ashworth MEP at one of our SEEC member meetings to outline future challenges facing the EU.

Reducing regulation

SEEC also monitors European policy proposals that may affect South East local authorities.  In 2012 successful briefing on the draft EU Energy Efficiency Directive helped remove council buildings from a mandatory requirement to renovate 3% of floorspace to current building standards each year.

The final EU directive took account of SEEC proposals for alternative approaches to local government owned buildings  -as set in our briefing which is available here.

Our work on Europe was initially informed by a member-led task & finish group, which reported to SEEC’s 2011 and 2012 AGMs.  This work has now been mainstreamed into SEEC meetings and the task and finish group has been disbanded.

South East voice in Europe

SEEC also has representation in Europe’s Committee of the Regions (CoR) via Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE, a senior member of the UK delegation to CoR. The CoR is the European Union’s assembly of local and regional representatives, providing a direct voice in the EU’s institutional framework.

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