Mayor Ben Houchen has met Brexit Minister Suella Braverman MP to seek assurances Tees Valley will benefit from cash to replace European funding after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Mayor Houchen joined five other mayors at the briefing, where Government updated the mayors on the latest Brexit negotiations ahead of the release of a white paper on Britain’s future customs arrangements.
While there, he pressed Government to make sure the EU’s current commitment of £25million to the region would be secured from a new “Shared Prosperity Fund” and called for even more cash to be devolved post-Brexit.
Mayor Houchen said: “This meeting was another opportunity to get our region’s Leave-voting voice heard by Government. After Brexit, we will be free of EU red tape and able to fully commit funding across the UK as we see fit.
“But this shouldn’t just mean more cash for those in London. It should mean devolved funding so we can do on a local level what Government will now be able to do nationally – apply this cash to the areas, schemes and initiatives that need it most.”
At the meeting, Mayor Houchen further pushed the case for a Free Port in Tees Valley, highlighting the recent report commissioned by global construction company Mace Group that it could create more than 17,500 jobs and add £1.1billion to the local economy.
He also sought a vow from Government that the region’s chemical industry would be protected after Brexit and pushed for further funding and powers over Tees Valley’s skills offering for 16-18-year-olds.
Mayor Houchen added: “We have to make sure that Brexit works in the interests of the Tees Valley, not just Whitehall. That’s why I’ve once again been driving to secure commitments over the issues that are most important to us.
“An overwhelming 84% of the North East support a Free Port, this can only be achieved if we leave the single market and customs union when we leave the EU. If we do not then we will not be able to benefit from the jobs and investment a Free Port could bring.
“With engineering and chemical firms so vital to our business landscape and a need to develop home-grown talent rather than being reliant on cheap, imported labour, our post-Brexit priorities are clear.
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get. I will continue to ask for everything I need to ensure the Tees Valley has a prosperous, bright future.”