A think tank is arguing that the North of England should have its own Brexit negotiating team.

In a paper published today, IPPR North argues that alongside trade and funding issues, the North has distinct economic assets and interests that will be affected by Brexit. This includes strengths in key sectors such as, advanced materials and manufacturing, energy generation, distribution and storage, health innovation and the digital economy.

This distinctiveness says the authors, means that Brexit presents both opportunities and threats. It is therefore essential that the North ensures that it has the tools it needs in order to both exploit the opportunities that Brexit offers, and mitigate the risks that it will pose.

The nascent and patchy development of combined authorities, metro-mayors and devolution ‘deals’ in the North means that the region is not well-placed to formulate a coherent response to Brexit that will match those of the devolved administrations for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, or that of the mayor of London or other well-established lobbying groups. Furthermore, it is quite impossible for central government to deal meaningfully with the demands of over 30 upper-tier local authorities, and 11 local enterprise partnership areas, in the North one by one.

For this reason, the paper argues for the formation of a Northern Brexit Negotiating Committee to determine the type of Brexit that the North needs, and speak with one voice in the negotiations, rather than have others shape the debate and leave individual places in the North to simply cope with the Brexit that they are given.

Ed Cox, Director of IPPR North, said:

“The North of England’s £300bn economy faces real opportunities and challenges from Brexit – for instance, trade is very important to the North’s high-tech products like cars and pharmaceuticals – but this clearly must be balanced against concerns on immigration and jobs.” adding that 

“Whether it’s top business leaders or trade union leaders, politicians, scientists and innovators or others, we want to hear who should join our “all-star team” for the North.Speaking with a single voice will put the North on par with Scotland and London during the negotiations – and help the government create a Britain that works ‘for everyone’.”

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