Grouped under an umbrella known as “Core Cities,” UK mayors and city leaders of the eight largest urban areas outside of London met with EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Brussels on February 23 to discuss how the shared interests of their cities, local communities, and businesses can best be met following Brexit.

The Core Cities coalition gathers Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Sheffield. The coalition represents a population of 20 million people, generating a quarter of the Kingdom’s economy and delivering 29 percent of the UK’s international trade. 

“We already have strong links with these cities which are important for local jobs,” explains Councillor Judith Blake, who chairs Core Cities. “We also have a responsibility to make sure the voice of local people is heard.”

She adds that if all of the cities grouped under Core Cities perform just at the national economic average, they could add add between £70 and £90 billion (about $96 billion and $123 billion) to the British economy every year. “International evidence suggests that the most productive cities have the most power over spending on local priorities,” the councillor says. Therefore Core Cities’ message to government is to deliver a domestic reform agenda that allows cities to take back control on issues such as skills and local economic development.

“There is little doubt that Brexit will hurt our capital city; 61 percent of the city’s exports go to EU countries,” warns Councillor Huw Thomas, who leads Cardiff Council. “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,” he concludes, adding that working with Eurocities can give Core Cities opportunities to learn how they can boost their productivity and improve their own competitiveness in the wake of Brexit.

Across the Atlantic in America, city-level action is on the rise, with the U.S. mayors action to commit to the Paris Agreement in “America’s Pledge” following the federal government’s announcement that it would withdraw being the most prominent example. In fact, on February 24, the Open Society Foundations announcednew initiative titled “The Mayor Exchange,” connecting U.S. mayors with experience in dealing with disaster recovery on the mainland with their counterparts in Puerto Rico working to overcome the damages caused by Hurricane Maria last October.

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