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Restoring "lost connections" between the EU and the UK as a consequence of Brexit through local and regional authorities

The United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020. However, the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU were to a large extent unclear until as late as December 2020, which marked the end of the transition period. While Brexit itself was negotiated at the highest levels of national governments and EU authorities, it also affects local communities and regions. In recognition of that fact, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) launched a UK Contact Group intended to maintain lines of communication between local and regional authorities (LRAs) in EU and UK cities, regions, and devolved administrations. This study aims to provide scientific support to the CoR-UK Contact Group in the assessment of the impact of Brexit on the functioning of LRAs, analysing the lost connections between the UK and the EU at the local and regional level as well as exploring possible avenues and methods of future cooperation between EU and UK LRAs following Brexit.

The study analyses the main policy areas affected by Brexit (Section 2) and the related impact on LRAs (Section 3). As Brexit is a largely unprecedented event which unfolded alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, we greatly rely on information gathered through stakeholder interviews, who deserve profound acknowledgments. They include representatives of LRAs and LRA associations located in the EU regions with most ties to the UK as well as selected UK regions, coordinators of cross-border projects, and representatives of academia. To assess possibilities for future cooperation, this study discusses the main drivers and challenges to cooperation imposed by Brexit as well as the key factors for maintaining or restoring further cooperation between EU and UK LRAs (Section 4). It also presents relevant examples of functioning cooperation frameworks and successful bottom-up initiatives that can be used by LRAs to leverage future cooperation opportunities. The last section of the study provides brief conclusions and recommendations.

The report was prepared for the European Union and the Committee of the Regions.


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