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Burnham calls for regional Brexit cabinet

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A committee made up of metro mayors and representatives from different regions should be formed and recognised by government as a key body to consult with on plans to leave the European Union, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has said.

Mr Burnham made the call in a letter to David Davies, secretary of state for exiting the EU. Currently the devolved nations of the UK, as well as its overseas territories, meet formally and regularly with the government, but no such arrangements are in place for the English regions.

In a keynote speech at the Local Government Association conference in Birmingham today, Mr Burnham (Lab) is expected to say: “It cannot be right that Britain’s overseas territories, such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, have a permanent seat at the Brexit table whilst we are denied one. Greater Manchester is ready to play our part and make a constructive contribution to the process of leaving the European Union.

“I am also concerned about the very real risk that Brexit will be dominated by the City of London and the financial sector. By giving a formal, meaningful, seat at the Brexit table to the regions we can ensure the needs and aspirations of all sections of our economy and society are represented.”

Mr Burnham’s letter to Mr Davies also asked the government to work with Greater Manchester on co-designing a long-term replacement to European structural funds. Mr Burnham said this “must go beyond simply replacing EU funding, and must also encompass an approach for ongoing infrastructure funding” and added the money “should be fully devolved to functional economic areas, be multi-year to provide assurance and stability, and be targeted at the most deprived areas”.

If opportunities presented by Brexit are to be “grasped”, Mr Burnham said a “place-based industrial strategy” must be implemented, and access to the UK’s share of its €39bn share of European Investment Bank (EIB) capital maintained. “If the UK does not continue to participate in the EIB, the EIB ‘dividend’ should be devolved and distributed to localities,” said Mr Burnham.

He also called for transitional arrangements for migrant workers to be put in place.

Meanwhile, Mr Burnham said he had also written to education secretary Justine Greening setting out how to raise the skills in Greater Manchester “through co-commissioning the education, skills and employment system” with the combined authority “to get more out of existing spending”.

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