Brexit: Cornwall and East of England to maintain Brussels offices

Several UK regional offices have revealed they intend to remain in Brussels despite Britain's decision to quit the EU.

EU flag in front of Westminster | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

26 Aug 2016

The Brussels office for the East of England has become the latest regional representation to pledge its commitment to remain in the city, citing the "huge complexities" of the Brexit negotiations as one reason for its decision.

It was established in 1998 as a partnership office. 

Kevin Bentley, who is the Chair of East of England Europe, said a "vital role" awaits the office following the referendum vote to leave the EU. 


That was the "clear message", he said, to emerge from leading local council, university and local enterprise representatives from the region at a recent meeting.

The meeting was held in Cambridge and was chaired by Bentley, who is also deputy leader of Essex County Council.

The East of England office in Brussels, he said, has for the past 18 years offered a "critical" service for local authorities, universities and local enterprise partnerships providing opportunities for funding and economic opportunities. 

The UK government has now indicated that such funding will now be available after Brexit, but Bentley says the Brussels office still has an important role.

He said; "Given the huge complexities of Brexit, our region needs a presence in Brussels more than ever. Brussels and the EU haven't gone away, but we have to ensure that we take advantage of the opportunities that are in Europe as we establish a new relationship. 

"We have learned from the Norwegian and Swiss regional offices that we work very closely with that there are many benefits to maintaining a strong presence in Brussels. 

"The East of England is known for its entrepreneurship and growing business economy and it is important that our Brussels office is there to support them in trading with the EU in future."

Bentley continued, "We shall be looking to increase business membership and ensure that they have a leading voice at the heart of the EU to enable businesses in the east to be ahead of the game in trade and help to increase jobs and contracts with the EU as well as the rest of the world."

This is one of several such announcements across the UK, as Cornwall, Birmingham and Bristol have all recently also committed to keeping their offices open in Brussels despite the Brexit vote.

Cornwall Council has admitted it will keep its office in Brussels after the UK has severed ties with the EU, despite residents in the county voting overwhelmingly to leave.

But Julian German, portfolio holder for economy and culture at Cornwall Council, said, "We believe it is more important than ever to maintain our office in Brussels."

The base in Brussels will be used to maintain Cornwall's involvement in Horizon 2020, an EU research programme, and Interreg, which strives for European territorial co-operation.

The current membership of the East of England European Partnership is the East of England Local Government Association, the University of Essex, Anglia Ruskin University, the University of East Anglia, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government has released a report, building on existing economic analysis done during the referendum, which suggests that the impact of Brexit on the Scottish economy could be anything between €1.99bn and €13bn depending on the new relationship between the UK and the EU. 

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is also reportedly keen to appoint a Brexit minister to try to influence the UK's negotiations with the EU.


Share this page