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Brexit minister Suella Fernandes meets with metro mayors in Cambridge

DEuEU Minister, Suella Fernandes pictured at Trinity College Pic - Richard Marsham
DEuEU Minister, Suella Fernandes pictured at Trinity College Pic - Richard Marsham

Selling a story full of post-Brexit optimism

Brexit Minister Suella Fernandes visited Cambridge on Friday to meet with the region’s mayor, James Palmer, and the West of England mayor Tim Bowles.

Her’s was a “message of optimism” for Cambridge, although it was scant on detail. She discussed with the mayors in a closed meeting the future benefits that Brexit will bring.

Mr Palmer welcomed the optimism. He’s pushing for funds, such as the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is being set up to replace EU funding, to be devolved under his control.

Department for Exiting the European Union Minister, Ms Fernandes, told the Cambridge Independent: “There was a clear commitment and willingness from people around the table to continue our dialogue at regular intervals so that we at the department are mindful and aware of the particular economic and political needs that the mayors can very strongly advocate.

“It was very positive. I think there was a collective welcoming of the agreement of the Brexit implementation period that we saw at the end of March, agreeing a large part of the legal text which will provide the foundation for post 2019, and also on these phase one issues of EU citizenship which is pretty much all agreed now.

“A lot of businesses have said they wanted the implementation period to give them more time to put in place changes. And it means they only have to make one set of changes.”

She continued: “This time next year we will have left the EU and for the first time in 40 years will have the freedom to carve out our own trade deals with other countries, and will have taken back control of our borders, laws and money.

“Now, with less than a year to go until Brexit day on March 29 next year, our attention has turned to securing the most comprehensive, ambitious and far-reaching free trade agreement ever struck with our European partners.”

Mr Palmer said: “I’m delighted that Cambridge was chosen to host the first in a series of forums between minister Suella Fernandes and the UK’s metro mayors.

“Brexit is likely to impact different parts of the UK in different ways, and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has its own specific needs when it comes to getting the best possible outcome as we count down to March 29 next year.

“This forum was an opportunity to make the case for our region and its economy, which mixes farming with a highly advanced science sector and needs access to the right people to power it forward.

“I believe we need to explore options like the restoration of the seasonal agricultural workers’ scheme to help our farmers post-Brexit, as well as the need for free access to talent in our cutting-edge science industries, if they are to continue to thrive.

“It’s important to recognise the money that was invested in this region by the EU, in particular, areas like Fenland. This is going to be replaced by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and I believe that money should be accountable locally, and that’s why I’m arguing to central government for the funding to be devolved directly to mayors who I believe are best placed to target that funding for maximum benefit.

“Like the minister, I’m excited about the potential that Brexit offers our region which, for example, includes the ability for me as mayor to explore trade and investment opportunities overseas.

“These forums will be crucial as the Combined Authority explores further opportunities for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough when Britain leaves the EU.”

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