Above: Michael Murphy, Mayor of Clonmel (third from left) at the plenary session of the EU Committee of the Regions in Brussels last week. Beside him is Teresa Lennon, Head of the Irish Regions European Office
The case for stronger links between EU regions and cities, and the United Kingdom’s devolved administrations and local governments in the wake of Brexit, was made by Clonmel’s Mayor in Brussels last week.
Cllr Michael Murphy is Head of the Irish Delegation of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), an EU advisory body composed of 350 local and regional elected representatives throughout Europe.
The Ireland Wales programme, which delivered sustainable economic, social and environmental benefits for people, businesses and communities across Ireland and Wales, including Tipperary, is an example of a programme that has been discontinued because of Brexit.
The opinion presented by Cllr Murphy at last week’s plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions aims to ensure that the regional and local authorities in Ireland and throughout Europe have a voice in the strengthening of the EU-UK relationship at sub-national level, and remedying the territorial impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Cllr Murphy’s opinion was adopted and sent to all EU institutions.
Speaking at the European Commission Charlemagne building in Brussels, he said: “Brexit will have a negative impact on territorial cooperation, which forged excellent relationships over decades between the cities and regions of the European Union and the UK.
“We call on both the European Commission and the UK Government to recognise the CoR-UK Contact Group as an official sub-national interlocutor in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
“We know that cities and regions are continuing to find new ways of maintaining and developing relationships and this is evident through exchange programmes, bilateral cooperation, EU networks and associations.
“These relationships are needed to address common challenges that know no borders, such as culture, sustainable management of the seas, and the local and regional implementation of the sustainable development goals.
“We very much welcome this continued cooperation.”
The Brexit Adjustment Reserve has set aside €5.4 billion to cover trade losses and the impact on maritime border regions and for fisheries.
Maros Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, welcomed the ambition of the Committee of the Regions and its members to cooperate with the UK at the local and regional level, albeit within the confines of the type of Brexit chosen by the UK Government.
He also congratulated Cllr Murphy for his work in this area.
Commissioner Šefčovič is overseeing implementation of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) that entered into force in 2021. He said: “While the Committee has no formal role when it comes to EU international agreements, the Commission’s door is always open to listen to the voice of the regions.
“We look forward to continuing the regular exchanges we have had with the Committee’s UK Contact Group over the past two years, as we move forward with the implementation of the TCA.
“We are already working to support the people and businesses most affected by Brexit. For example, the Peace plus initiative helps finance projects across Northern Ireland and the border counties, which are aimed at reconciling communities and contributing to peace.
“Including co-financing from Ireland and the United Kingdom, funding under Peace plus will amount to more than €1 billion.”
The CoR opinion drafted by Cllr Murphy calls for the reserve to be increased, for the eligibility period to be extended and for assessments of the impact on particular sectors and regions.