Yesterday, I travelled to Brussels with Core Cities leaders to meet with Michel Barnier, EU chief negotiator for Brexit.
After a pre-meeting with leaders in the morning, there was a presentation over lunch by the head of the European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based think tank. We then headed to the Commission Office to meet Barnier, who started with a presentation on the state of play and then listened to our views as city leaders.
Our Core Cities group then met Guy Verhofstadt MEP, the European Parliament’s Brexit lead. We had a valuable discussion and he suggested we hold a gathering of cities and a series of hearings with EU committees in the Parliament in the near future to consider the role and interests of cities in Brexit. We finished up with the reception in the Bristol Brussels Office with about 30 guests, MEPs, a variety of partners and University of Bristol alumni.
International networks of cities are engines of growth, sources of political stability and are indispensable to any hope of tackling the national and global challenges we face today. From climate change to inequality to migration and political legitimacy, cities are a solution in the midst of the current chaos.
Barnier said he is determined to find frameworks for future relations and that the challenges we face are better tackled together. And although he made it clear yesterday that his negotiations need to take place within a Westminster context, we hope that greater access to and traction with government will be a key outcome of the visit. We intend to open the door to possibilities available for cities that are not as accessible to national leaders and we look forward to holding a gathering of cities later this year.