The U.S. election of Donald Trump and the U.K.’s Brexit vote have often been compared to one another since 2016 — as well as to the two shared strains of nationalism and xenophobia on display in France and Germany at the time. But in 2018, it appears that the two movements have another similarity. Both have driven cities toward the EU.
Mayors in the U.S. have increasingly turned toward the European body for assistance in forming environmental partnerships and crafting immigration policy, as Next City has covered. And earlier this month, a group of UK city leaders met with the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels to “discuss how the shared interests of their cities, local communities and businesses can best be met following Brexit,” Public Sector Executive (PSE) reports.
Their meeting was not meant to interfere with ongoing Brexit negotiations, but to argue for a greater role in those talks, Judith Blake, chair of Core Cities UK and leader of the Leeds city council, recently wrote for the Guardian.
“We went to talk about how we can add value to the process, building on the city-to-city relationships we already have across the continent and beyond,” she wrote. “The big question, of course, is how these relationships will function after Brexit. Our proposals include a cities commission to oversee the transition to Brexit on issues that specifically affect cities, and the ability to participate in future joint [programs], where possible.”
Core Cities UK represents 10 cities: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. Together those cities’ urban areas “have a population of 20 million people, generate 25 [percent] of the UK economy and deliver 29 [percent] of UK international trade,” according to PSE.
“There is little doubt that Brexit will hurt our capital city; 61 [percent] of the city’s exports go to EU countries,” said Cllr Huw Thomas, leader of Cardiff Council, according to PSE. “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.”
The cities agreed to meet with Barnier again, Blake wrote for the Guardian, adding: “The direct relationship between cities within international networks are increasingly solving problems on the ground that nation states alone cannot tackle — covering more inclusive economic growth, climate change and social cohesion.”
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.