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Cornwall to get separate trade rules with Europe?

brexit

Published by Emma Carton at 9:09am 23rd November 2018. (Updated at 9:10am 23rd November 2018)

By Local Democracy Reporter, Richard Whitehouse

The leader of Cornwall Council is set to meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator to highlight crucial issues for Cornwall

Adam Paynter is set to travel to Brussels on December 19th to meet the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

He is thought to be the only council leader in the UK to have such an invitation.

The opportunity has come from Cornwall Council's membership of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) and will also see representatives from Wales meet Mr Barnier.

Cllr Paynter said he wanted to ensure that the EU was aware of the issues faced by Cornwall and that Cornwall's voice is heard.

"The things I want to look at is Cornwall being open for business. We are a net exporter to the EU, we send more there than we get back. The fishing industry, for example, 95% goes to France and Spain - it's similar for our lamb and agirculture products.

"We have also seen our farmers talking recently about the issue of labour and we have done some work on how that will hit things in all areas, but we don't want crops rotting in the fields.

"We are heavily reliant on European labour. It is not skilled labour but it is essential for our businesses to thrive. It is not just seasonal work either, it is also in health, manufacturing and tourism".

Leader of Cornwall Council, Adam Paynter

When asked what he hoped to get in return from the EU's chief negotiator he said: "Hopefully he will be able to provide a bit of clarity about how he will see the deal progressing and working out".

Cllr Paynter said the current paperwork published by the Government about the Brexit deal was a "holding position" and he was keen to press for more information about trade deals and how they might affect the likes of agriculture and fishing in Cornwall which do export on a large scale to the EU.

"It is about learning more about it. It is all very well having a 450-odd-page document but how does he see the implications for Cornwall and is there anything that we can do to help?

"The trade link between Cornwall and the EU is very important and if there is anything we can do, separate to the Government, is something we can look at.

"If there is some flexibility in the way we work with the EU that would be helpful.

"If we can get that message across to him, that Cornwall is a bit different, we can protect our key industries and co-operate to enable that to happen".

Adam Paynter

Cornwall Council is set to have two motions to debate around Brexit when it meets in full next month and Cllr Paynter said he expected these would clarify the council's position on leaving the EU.

Until now the council has had no formal position on Brexit and, before the referendum in 2016, decided not to take a view and remained neutral on the issue.

By having a vote in the council chamber on Brexit, the leader hopes it will provide clarity: “It will help me to speak with a voice of the whole council when I meet with Michel Barnier".

Cllr Paynter said the council was already being proactive about Brexit and highlighted its “catalyst for change” report which laid out some ways in which Cornwall could benefit.

Cornwall was also one of just three areas which hosted visits from the leaving EU department to see how the regions could be affected by Brexit and council chief executive Kate Kennally has been appointed to the local government Brexit advisory panel.

The council is also making sure that EU workers in Cornwall are aware of the implications for them about Brexit and are able to apply to stay in the UK.

Cllr Paynter said the council was working with the Home Office to set up a face-to-face service for EU workers in Truro Library.

Cllr Paynter said the meeting with Michel Barnier was a unique opportunity for him personally but said it was also important to ensure Cornwall’s voice is heard:

He said: “It is quite exciting to meet the man that 27 states have given the job of doing the deal. As someone who has been a politician for a few years it will be interesting to meet someone in that position".

Adam Paynter

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