- Dave Thompson / Stringer
- Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram says Liverpool and Manchester should be given “differential” Brexit settlement if Theresa May goes ahead with plans for Northern Ireland.
- Rotheram joined Sadiq Khan, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones in calling for regions to be given opt-outs from hard Brexit.
- The Labour man told BI the thought of hard Brexit “terrifies” him.
LONDON – Steve Rotheram has suggested that Liverpool and other northern city regions should be able to stay closely-wedded to EU markets after Brexit if the UK government goes ahead with plans for “regulatory alignment” between Northern Ireland and the EU.
Speaking to Business Insider on Tuesday, the Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region said there will be a strong case for cities like Liverpool and Manchester to opt out from aspects of a hard Brexit if Northern Ireland is allowed to mirror EU trade and customs arrangements after exit day in March, 2019.
“If you think about Liverpool City Region and Manchester City Region and our functional economic geography, we have a bigger population GDP-GVA than Scotland,” former Labour MP Rotheram said.
“Of course, Scotland is a nation state, so I’m not suggesting for a second that Liverpool and Manchester should join together to form some form of republic. But, I think there is a differential settlement likely to happen with Brexit [in Liverpool and Manchester] and David Davis has been gracious and understanding in that we need to be able to talk to him about the fears we have.”
He added: “Myself and Andy have Ben Houchen (Mayor of Tees Valley) all met with David Davis and said that if Scotland has got the opportunity to speak directly to the Brexit secretary then the northern cities should too.”
Both Rotheram and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham have called on northern city regions to be given more say in Brexit negotiations between Britain and the EU.
“There’s a committee with the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands but no permanent seat for the English regions,” Burnham said last month.
“Quite frankly, that’s not good enough. I am worried we will get the same old story with a London-centric approach to Brexit where the government protects the City of London above other industries and that’s our fear. To guard against that, we need a seat at the table.”
Rotherham’s comments come as London mayor Sadiq Khan also called for an “urgent” meeting with Davis to secure special access to the single market for London.
“I’m meeting David Davis shortly and will raise the issue of London’s access to the single market and customs union as a matter of urgency,” Khan told the Evening Standard.
He added: “If it is the case that the entire country doesn’t stay in the single market and customs union then I’m sure that the EU, as demonstrated by their willingness to do a deal with Northern Ireland, would be amenable to a conversation with London.”
In a text currently being worked on by negotiators, the UK is prepared to agree that there’ll be “regulatory alignment” on market and customs rules between both sides of the Irish border, according to reports on Monday.
In practice, this concession would have major implications for Northern Ireland, as it would require it to stay as close as possible to EU rules in order to maintain seamless, free movement of goods and people across the border.
Khan, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones have all called on Theresa May to let their own regions retain aspects of single market and customs union membership.
“If one part of UK can retain regulatory alignment with EU and effectively stay in the single market (which is the right solution for Northern Ireland) there is surely no good practical reason why others can’t,” Sturgeon said in a tweet.
Speaking to BI at a meet-up of UK and US mayors in central London, Rotheram added that Brexit “terrifies” him.
“Brexit itself terrifies me. A hard Brexit strikes fear into my very core,” he said.
“But whatever comes of it, we must position ourselves to see what the potential advantages could be for a port city that’s good transatlantic trade links. The government didn’t have a plan in preparation for a Brexit vote, we are planning for what might come out of Brexit.”