While gathering in London on June 4 for its external group meeting, local and regional politicians from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Committee of the Regions discussed areas where structured cooperation will be needed at the local and regional level after Brexit becomes official.

“The UK and EU will continue to be key strategic partners even after the UK leaves the EU. We face many common global challenges, ranging from digitalisation to climate change and addressing these requires not only national but also local action,” said European Conservatives and Reformists Committee of the Regions President Rob Jonkman. “We need to continue working together at the local and regional level in a structured way to share the best practices and continue promoting greater localism and free-market values.”

The meeting included representatives from conservative local governments and devolved administrations in the UK discussed with their counterparts from across Europe their future cooperation after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

Flanked by private sector representatives, London Assembly Member Keith Prince discussed digitalisation case studies and how cities like London are using technologies to deliver public services. That discussion had been preceded by talks on specific examples of localism with Wladyslaw Ortyl, the president of the Polish region of Podkarpackie, and the mayor of the northern Italian city of Morazzone, Matteo Bianchi.

The participants also discussed their future cooperation within the framework of the European Committee of the Regions, the EU’s political assembly that brings together 350 local and regional politicians from each EU Member State. The United Kingdom currently has 24 Members in the Committee of the Regions, represented in four out of the five political groupings.

“Local authorities exercise powers in the EU in a way that they do not in the UK. In the EU, local and regional authorities are formally consulted when laws are being prepared,” said Local Government Association Conservative Group leader David Simmonds, adding We in the UK need to ensure that British local governments maintain their positive influence for efficient and effective government in areas currently within the EU. We also need to devolve some of the powers coming back to the local government so that local challenges can be addressed through local solutions.”

While the UK is scheduled to officially withdraw from the European Union in less than a year’s time, both London and Brussels are leaving the door open to maintain a modified form of structured relations – which the EU already has with a number of third countries.

 “Given that the UK will continue to pay into the EU budget until 2020, it would be good if we could continue to have our seats in the European Committee of the Regions. We need to avoid taxation without representation,” said the group’s Vice-President Joe Cooney.