What could five scenarios in EU Paper on ‘Future of Europe’ mean for CPMR regions?

By the CPMR Secretariat

Future of Europe pic

It’s been a few weeks since the European Commission published its White Paper on the future of Europe which has given us a bit more time to reflect on what the different scenarios could mean for the CPMR’s member regions. Take a look at the CPMR’s reflections on each of the scenarios:

Scenario 1 – Carrying on

The ‘status quo’ option or ‘muddling along’ as some commentators have described it. This scenario poses challenges even if on paper the EU27 would retain the same structure.

First, there will be the impact of Brexit on the EU budget and the multi-annual financial frameworks (MFF). This is estimated by some reports to be an annual loss of €10bn[i] which over the duration of a seven-year financial framework would be upwards of €70bn of the total MFF. This could be exacerbated further depending on the negotiations over the UK’s ‘leaving bill’, which certain reports estimate to be around 60bn euros[ii], and how this bill would be shared out among the EU27 in the case of a default by the UK.

Second, there is the call for further EU action to address new and emerging challenges, including the migration/refugee crisis, security and defence.  Hard choices would have to be made with potential implications to the biggest budget lines, particularly Common Agricultural Policy, Common Fisheries Policy, Cohesion Policy, Research and Innovation (Horizon 2020), and Erasmus+. Or the EU27 would have to commit to increased contributions to absorb the loss of the UK or consider new and alternative methods of financing the EU,which would take us away from a ‘carrying on’ scenario per se.

Scenario 2 – Nothing but the Single Market

This approach would in theory refocus the EU’s co-operation around the Single Market, meaning activities in other areas such as external co-operation, international action on climate change, neighbourhood policy, justice and home affairs, migration and refugees, would be dropped unless a clear case was made linking such policies to the functioning of the Single Market.

In many of these areas reduction of EU level action and co-operation would have a major impact on the CPMR regions, given the territorial dimension and risks associated with many of the challenges in these areas. One such example is migration and refugees, and the importance of this issue is seen in the response in early April from seven Member States in the Mediterranean calling for a consolidated and shared response at EU level to dealing with this crisis. A retreat in such areas would leave significant gaps, and it is difficult to see how this could lead to a stable environment given the serious external pressures facing the EU. It would necessitate some sort of international co-operation in response.

The White Paper also paints a very specific picture of how the EU would re-focus around the Single Market: based on a ‘non-interventionist’ approach through reduction of regulatory burden (repeal of two existing pieces of legislation for every new legislative proposal). It concludes that this would lead to persisting or increasing disparities in regulatory standards.

This is, however, a simplistic and unrealistic picture of how the Single Market works, and assumes agreement would be reached among Member States on removing existing standards. We would argue this is not a given at all, and that the setting of common and consistent regulatory standards across the EU is essential to the functioning of the Single Market, encapsulating environmental, employment and social policy, consumer safety, health and safety at work.

Similarly, the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy are fundamental elements of the Single Market and would continue to be key priorities under such a scenario. The Cohesion Policy is an essential component of the Single Market to ensure that the EU takes co-ordinated action to address disparities resulting from market failures and to invest in competitiveness, research and innovation, education and training. These elements constitute the lion’s share of the EU budget, so the budgetary questions posed in scenario 1 would need to be addressed under Scenario 2 as well. The White Paper does not address these at all.

Scenario 3 – Those who want more do more

This scenario, the so-called multi-speed approach, would see formal recognition of differentiated levels of co-operation within the EU.

To a certain extent a multi-speed Europe already exists, seen in the Eurozone and Schengen, as well as opt-outs/opt-ins within the area of justice and home affairs, although the departure of the UK and British exceptionalism would take away one of the strong proponents of ‘different treatment to the others’. One of the challenges of multi-speed will be to ensure that it does not lead to the unintended consequence of further fragmentation within the EU.

Therefore, we agree with the Commission’s White Paper that multi-speed should strengthen the Single Market, and should also maintain common standards in employment, competition, social and environmental legislation across the EU, as well as reinforcing the four freedoms that are at the basis of the Single Market. It also means a central role for Cohesion Policy, delivered at EU level and across all regions, on which we comment further in our consideration of scenario 4 below.

Scenario 4 – Doing less more efficiently

This scenario would need to define which areas would be prioritised within an EU for strengthened co-operation, whilst other areas would be dropped where EU intervention was considered less efficient. The ultimate goal would be to clarify where the EU is responsible and where national governments are responsible, hence closing the gap between ‘promise and delivery’.

The CPMR has already highlighted one of its major concerns with this scenario: the backhand attack on Cohesion Policy (described as regional development) as one of the areas where EU intervention ‘is perceived as having more limited added value, or as being unable to deliver on promises’. We would argue that Cohesion Policy is a fundamental pillar of the EU and a necessary compliment to the Single Market, providing the glue that keeps the EU united. Therefore, any scenario focusing on doing less must include Cohesion Policy as a central element.

Scenario 4 also poses uncertainty about the status of other areas of special interest for the CPMR such as research, innovation, mobility in education, maritime affairs, climate change or transport. Would these be considered part of the core? Or would they be left to national governments? And what about the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy?

Finally, scenario 4 (echoing elements of scenario 2) sees a more limited role for the EU in some aspects of the regulatory framework for the Single Market with social and employment policy identified as one of the areas where regulation would be left to national governments to determine. To conclude, therefore, this scenario as described raises many worrying questions, and is one of the least attractive options for the CPMR regions given the real threat it poses to policies and priorities of central importance to regions.

Scenario 5 – Doing much more together 

Viewed as the least likely of the five scenarios, the final scenario presented in the White Paper would lead to a deepened union, with a strengthened role for EU action across many areas. The key issue for the CPMR would be to see how such a process would take place and what it would mean for regions.

The Commission notes that this scenario would raise questions around the ‘legitimacy’ of the EU to act, and from our perspective the role of the regions within this new approach would be a fundamental concern for CPMR member regions to ensure that concerns around disconnect or remoteness of Brussels and the EU Institutions were addressed. Similarly, it would pose questions around the place and role of territorial cohesion, the implications of strengthening economic and monetary union for the regional level and several other issues directly affecting regions.

Furthermore, given the current weak voice for regions within the EU Institutions and the structures and policy/law-making process, we believe this would also need to be addressed for a deepened Union to work properly.


[i] Jacques Delors Insitut, January 2017, Report ‘Brexit and the EU Budget: Threat or Opportunity’

[ii] Centre for European Reform, February 2017, Article ‘ The 60bn Brexit Bill : How to Disentangle Britain from the EU Budget’; Report ‘The 60bn Brexit Bill : How to Disentangle Britain from the EU Budget’ 


CPMR’s North Sea & Atlantic Arc Commissions establish Brexit Task Forces

By the CPMR Secretariat

Partnership between Europe and Great Britain / 3D Rendering

The CPMR Atlantic Arc and North Sea Commissions have established Brexit task forces to follow the negotiations and feed into the CPMR’s overall reflection on the Future of Europe.

The Task forces have been set up within these Commissions because they involve the regions that will be most affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

They will focus on the potential impact of Brexit on relationships, links and co-operation activities between regions, and the financial impact of losing the UK’s contribution to the EU on policies and priorities that matter to the CPMR’s member regions.

They will also feed into the CPMR’s overall Reflection on the Future of Europe, providing evidence and information of note on the impact and implications of Brexit for regions.

Atlantic Arc Brexit Task Force

The Atlantic Arc Commission’s (AAC) Brexit Task Force was created by the Galicia Region, in Spain, during the last Atlantic Arc Commission General Assembly. It will inform its regions about Brexit developments, publish regions’ statements, and promote the Atlantic political presence in the Brexit negotiations.

The Atlantic Arc regions have a legitimate voice in the Brexit negotiations. They have been able to forge complex and intrinsic economic, financial, tourism-related, scientific, educational and cultural links with UK regions, as shown in the AAC technical note.

Regions are invited to contact the AAC secretariat (ander.albisu@crpm.org) to share updated analyses on the impact of Brexit on their regional territories. This evidence based work will be the basis for the development of an Atlantic declaration on Brexit which is planned for the end of 2017.

The Brexit Task Force will benefit from the AAC Executive Secretariat’s participation in the institutional Atlantic Strategy Group (ASG), alongside national representatives from the UK, Ireland, France, Portugal and Spain. Thanks to its strategic positioning, the Secretariat will be able to update member states on regions’ concerns related to Brexit.

The Task Force had its first meeting in Brussels at the end of March. Find out more about what was on the meeting agenda.

For any questions or further clarifications, please send an email to the Atlantic Arc Commission Secretariat: Catherine.petiau@crpm.org and Pauline.caumont@crpm.org

North Sea Brexit Task Force

The North Sea Commission’s (NSC) Brexit Task Force will be chaired by Nienke Homan, from the Groningen Region of the Netherlands. The decision was agreed at the NSC Executive Committee meeting in Southend-on-Sea on 24 March.

This Task Force will follow the negotiations from a North Sea perspective, and feed in to CPMR’s Future of Europe process. The work will be coordinated with the group in the Atlantic Arc Commission.

The North Sea region plays an important role in European external trade, transport, fisheries, and energy production. The region has strong internal links, and it is crucial that a Brexit deal will do as little harm as possible to future cooperation in the region.

Last December, the North Sea Commission was invited to give evidence to the UK House of Commons Committee on Exiting the EU.

For any questions or further clarifications, please send an email to the North Sea Commission Secretariat: magnus.engelbrektsson@vgregion.se, irma.ganibegovic@vgregion.se and melissa.frodin@vgregion.se

Impact & implications of ‘Brexit’ for Regions

By the CPMR Secretariat

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Triggering of Article 50

Tomorrow, nine months after the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU), the Prime Minister Theresa May will formally notify the European Council of the UK’s intention  to withdraw from the EU, in line with the requirements of Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union.

Thus begins a two-year timeframe for negotiations, which should mean that by the end of March 2019 the UK will cease to be a part of the European Union, unless both sides (the UK on the one side, the other 27 EU Member States (EU27) on the other) agree unanimously to extend the negotiations beyond two years. The road ahead is uncertain as no State has left the EU before and the rules for exit included in the Treaty are brief.

On 29 April a Special Summit of the EU27 will be held on Article 50 where Guidelines for the negotiations will be formally agreed. The European Commission, which through Michel Barnier, will lead the negotiations, will then draw up detailed negotiating texts in the weeks following this Special Summit, and these texts will be agreed by EU affairs ministers in the Council (acting on qualified majority voting) in May or June. Once these texts have been agreed the formal negotiations will begin.

Following up the Brexit process: specific task forces in CPMR Geographical Commissions

The CPMR will closely follow the process as part of our work on the future of Europe in direct collaboration with the most affected CPMR geographical commissions: the Atlantic Arc Commission (AAC) and the North Sea Commission. Both of them have established new Brexit task forces/working groups.

The Brexit Task force of the Atlantic Arc Commission will be led by Galicia and will meet tomorrow in Brussels for the first time, and the working group of the North Sea Commission will be led by Groningen. Our focus will be on the potential impact of Brexit on the relationships, links and co-operation activities between regions, and the financial impact of losing the UK’s contribution to the EU on policies and priorities that matter to our member regions.

In tomorrow’s meeting, Galicia will present the main goals to be achieved by the AAC working group, including the overall objective of making Atlantic Arc Regions concerns on Brexit an issue on the agenda of the political sphere by preparing a joint declaration of our members.

Territorial impact of Brexit

It is clear from initial analysis (see for example Brittany, Cornwall, Flanders, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Ireland and Brexit – North West Border Region, the CPMR’s Atlantic Arc Commission, and in parts of Northern Ireland) that Brexit will have a disproportionate impact on many regions. The implications of Brexit will be extensive, cutting across many areas:  regional trade of goods and services with the UK, which will be particularly acute within certain sectors and industries including of course the maritime economy and tourism broadly. More specific sectors will also be affected depending on the regions concerned; impact on housing markets, the health and social care or research and education.

Concrete examples can illustrate this implications:

Galicia, for instance, is the biggest fishing region in Europe. The withdrawal of the UK may create an unfair situation affecting its fleet if fisheries are not adequately taken into consideration during the negotiations. In this regard, it is crucial to ensure from the very beginning that the access to fishing grounds is linked to the access to the market.

– For Normandy the UK is the number one client for tourism and for ownership of second residences, and the 3rd largest market for its exports – which is also the case for Brittany.

– For Andalucía the UK accounts for 2 million tourist visits (25% of the total of foreign visitors per annum) and 10% of total tourism to this region.

– Ireland has 3 million UK tourist visitors per annum with an estimated economic value of over 800m euros. For the Basque Country, the UK is the fourth largest destination for exports, and the third largest for imports, with strong economic links within the steel, energy, aeronautics and car industries, and the story is similar for many other Spanish regions.

– And we are as equally concerned for our members in the UK. For example two thirds of exports from Wales, one of our member regions, currently go to the EU – therefore, any changes to the nature of the relationship between Wales and the EU could potentially hit the Welsh economy very hard.

It is important that the ‘territorial impact’ of Brexit is not lost in the negotiations between the EU27 and the UK Government. In our work on Brexit we will be looking to draw together the different analysis and reports on the regional impact of Brexit, posting links on this Web-Forum. We ask for your help in this: if you are aware of studies, reports or ongoing research into the territorial impact please let us know so that we can include references to this here.

Continuing co-operation at regional level post-Brexit

Another theme in our work on Brexit will be the framework for future co-operation between regions pot-Brexit. There is a clear commitment from CPMR to maintain strong links with the UK’s nations and regions post-Brexit, and continued support for co-operation, partnerships, and exchanges in the future. The UK doesn’t disappear as a result of Brexit; and the historic cultural, social, and economic links binding us together will continue, including an important joint responsibility for the maritime spaces that we share in the Channel, North Sea, Atlantic, and Irish Sea. The CPMR and our Geographical Commissions will be making these points forcibly during the next two years.

Implications of Brexit to current and future EU Budget

The departure of the UK potentially impacts on the EU Budget in two ways. The first concerns the current Multi-annual Financial Framework for the period 2014-2020, and the commitments that the UK has already signed up to. If the UK walks away from the negotiations without delivering on its agreed commitments that will create a hole within the MFF and could place in jeopardy the completion of Operational Programmes and projects supported within the current round of EU programmes. Clearly this is a scenario that the CPMR will be hoping is avoided, and will be backing calls for fairness in the negotiations: that the UK delivers on agreed commitments and that the negotiations don’t undermine this.

The second concerns the future EU Budgets and financial frameworks for the post-Brexit period, and the implications of losing the UKs net contribution (estimated at around 10bn euros annually). This loss will be significant and will mean re-thinking how the EU27 finances EU policies in the future, including questions over the role of ‘new own resources’. The CPMR has made clear its support and commitment to maintaining a strong EU-wide Cohesion Policy that involves all regions, and will be adopting a formal policy position on the future of the policy in June this year. Europe has seen growing inequalities and disparities since the financial and economic crisis, making the Cohesion Policy more essential than ever as the EU’s investment policy, as a complement and balancing mechanism to address the market failures associated with the Single Market.

Regional voice in the negotiations

As CPMR President Cordeiro stated in the CPMR’s Political Bureau in Gozo on 10 March “It is crucial that regions are active in the debate on the Future of Europe”. Brexit is one of the biggest developments in recent EU history and CPMR has an important role to play in highlighting the differential territorial impact that Brexit will have.

We encourage member regions to participate on this section by sending their contributions on the impact of Brexit on their regions or any other relevant information related to the negotiation process. We are keen to hear from you.

Please contact: andrew.kennedy@crpm.org