Cornwall reflects on challenges & opportunities of Brexit

By Katie Cavell, Cornwall Brussels Representative

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A Catalyst for Change is Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly’s reflection on the challenges and opportunities of Brexit for the county. 

It comes out of a series of Brexit roundtables conducted during November and December 2016 and coordinated by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (CIoS) Futures Group.  The roundtables gathered the views of local businesses and policy practitioners on the potential impact of Brexit for a number of CIoS’ key sectors.

The resulting document A Catalyst for Change: Implications, Risks and Opportunities of Brexit for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly recognises that while there are risks in all sectors, there may be opportunities as well that must not be missed.

A common thread throughout the discussions was the future of economic funding criteria (based on value for money or outputs, rather than economic need) that could have a detrimental impact on the economy of CIoS, which will struggle to compete with urban areas.

There were also concerns regarding environmental regulations, the free movement of labour which would impact on a number of sectors, and the future trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

One of the main opportunities was the potential to repatriate some EU regulations to the local government level, and to explore potential reforms with the UK Government that may support the future economy of CIoS.

‘. . .many participants saw Brexit not as a cause of change, but as a catalyst – a catalyst that gives us fresh impetus to deliver changes that we had already been proposing in order to fulfil our long term ambitions to create a more sustainable and prosperous CIoS with strong and resilient communities.’ Kate Kennally, Chair of the CIoS Futures Group

CPMR debate on Future of Europe

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, the precursor of course to the current EU treaties, and 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe. Both provide a fitting context in which the CPMR is undertaking its own reflection on the future of Europe.

Over the next 18 months we will be carrying analysis, discussion and debate, aimed at setting out the priorities and visions of our member regions for the future of Europe.

Our end goal: the adoption of a political Manifesto in the autumn of 2018, ahead of what will be a year of change at European level in 2019, with European Parliament elections, a new European Commission and the likely Brexit of the UK from the EU.

We aim to draw some initial conclusions and political messages at our Annual General Assembly in Helsinki October this year, ahead of the December EU Summit discussions on the European Commission White Paper.

The White Paper on the Future of Europe, published on 1 March, sets out a number of scenarios for reform. However, it’s clear that President Juncker’s audience is the national governments, and it will be up to us to demonstrate the central place for regions, islands and outermost regions in the future vision of the EU.

Events of recent years have shown that Europe’s peripheral regions are very much at the heart of the key challenges facing Europe, including the migration/refugee crisis, the EUs external borders, their role in ‘regional diplomacy’, the move towards sustainable and renewable energy sources, and the unbalanced and uneven economic development across Europe.

The CPMR since its creation has stood for three core principles:
• Balanced Territorial Development and Territorial Cohesion
• Championing the position of regions in European policy-making
• Promoting solidarity within Europe and between its regions

These principles remain valid and particularly pertinent in the context of the wide-ranging challenges facing Europe presently, and will provide the foundation on which the CPMR’s reflection on the future of Europe takes place.

We will focus our work around three key pillars of activity, where we can make a forceful and persuasive contribution to the reform debate:

• Investment, competitiveness and territorial cohesion: how Europe reforms to tackle the ongoing social, economic and environmental challenges, including addressing social inequalities, as well as investing in competitiveness at the regional level;
• Democratic participation: addressing growing populism, anti-politics, including distrust of political institutions and structures, anti-Europe sentiment and a rise in protectionism;
• Relations between the EU and its neighbours: the impact of Brexit in the north west of Europe (Channel, Atlantic and North Sea) and what new relationships could emerge from this; addressing the migrant/refugee crisis; and the growing geo-political threats on the EUs southern and eastern borders.

Regions play a central role in promoting and engaging in partnership, through networks like the CPMR, and through projects and other initiatives that promote co-operation in its various forms: economic, cultural, political and in many other ways.

Such activities provide the ‘glue’ that brings Europe closer together, and such co-operation activities are even more essential given the social, economic and political instability across Europe. They should be supported and reinforced in the future.

Many of our regions have competence for education and training, therefore, they have a clear stake and responsibility for investing in the skills and employability of young people across Europe. We hope very much to gather through our members the views of young people in this crucial debate.

We encourage contributions to our reflections, particularly from politicians, academics and experts within CPMRs member regions. If you have thoughts to share, ideas on how the EU can better engage citizens, and promote effective partnership we would like to hear from you.

Please contact: Andrew.Kennedy@crpm.org