The Leader of Cardiff Council and other UK city leaders will meet EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels on Monday, February 19, to discuss post-Brexit relations with Europe.
Cllr Huw Thomas will be among the leaders and mayors representing Core Cities UK – the 10 key UK cities outside London which are home to 20m citizens and generate 25% of the UK economy. Among the topics for discussion will be the shared interests of their cities and how the needs of local communities and businesses can be best met in the lead up to and after Brexit.
Core Cities UK will attend the European Commission Headquarters with the president of European cities network, EUROCITIES, which represents around 200 European cities.
Cllr Thomas said:
“I'm looking forward to sitting down with Mr Barnier to state the case for maintaining strong links with our European counterparts post Brexit. Cardiff is a city with strong international links that voted to remain in the European Union in 2016, and while I respect that the country as a whole voted to leave, there are some inescapable facts that people need to be made aware of.
“There is little doubt that Brexit will hurt our capital city. Sixty one percent of the city's exports go to EU countries. We are among the top five British cities which are most reliant on EU markets. Many Cardiff firms rely on workers from EU countries, particularly those in construction, retail, hospitality, health and social care.
“Consider Cardiff's health services. They are reliant on doctors, nurses and other health professionals from across the world – many from the EU. Brexit must not make recruiting and retaining these vital roles more difficult.
“There are around 3,000 students in the city region from the EU – four percent of the student population – who are facing uncertainty around their status. These students make a significant contribution to the local economy. Potential fee changes for EU students could lead to a sharp reduction in numbers over the coming years leading to a £10m annual loss in tuition fees to Cardiff's universities.
“Wales is also a net beneficiary of EU membership receiving around £680m in EU funding each year. To put this into some context the City Deal is worth only £1.2bn in funding over a 20-year period. If we are not to be left behind to wither on the vine then the UK government will have to find at least £330m a year for the Cardiff Capital Region alone. Staying in the EU then is worth at least six city deals over the same 20-year period, if current funding levels are maintained.
“So it's clear to me – even after Brexit – Europe will continue to be a key market for businesses and organisations in Cardiff and that's why I will be fighting for unfettered access to the Single Market and Customs Union. We must ensure that our voices continue to be heard on the continent.
“Working with EUROCITIES can help us achieve this and can give us opportunities to learn how we can boost our productivity and improve our own competitiveness after Britain has left the EU. It's essential that Cardiff remains open and outward looking. We want to continue to grow business and jobs over the years ahead. To do that it is imperative that positive relationships with European cities, organisations, partners and networks can continue in the future for the benefit of Cardiff and our Core Cities partners as well as the interests of cities across the EU.”
The Core Cities are home to 20m citizens and generate 25% of the UK economy. They host more than a quarter of UK businesses, deliver 29% of UK international trade and have 37.5% of UK university students.
They are also the UK's most significant international centres for trade outside London. It is estimated Core Cities exported over £72 billion in 2016, of which 48% was to the EU, and 52% to non-EU countries.