Birmingham & Black Country

'Brexit team' costs to be offloaded by Birmingham City Council

The building in which the council's Brussels office is based Image copyright Google
Image caption The Brussels office is in this building and is advertised for conferencing because of its 'over-view of the European Parliament'

Birmingham City Council wants to keep its 11-strong team in charge of Brexit issues but offload the £726,000 annual cost.

The authority hopes external sources can, within two years, pay for its Birmingham-based European & International Affairs team - plus £120,000 for its office in Brussels.

Supporters say the office is "required as much, if not more, post-Brexit".

A UKIP MEP thinks the office should be "closed down immediately".

More stories from across Birmingham and the Black Country.

The debate comes as British prime minister Theresa May says the UK "cannot possibly" remain within the European single market, as staying in would mean "not leaving the EU at all".

Birmingham's Labour-run council says since opening in 1984, the Brussels office and its European team have helped Birmingham access more than £1bn of funding from the European Union (EU) but the authority needs to save £54m a year by 2018 on top of the savings it has already made.

EU-funded projects in Birmingham

- £50m investment for the International Convention Centre (ICC)

- £30m for the National Exhibition Centre (NEC)

- £25.6m for Millenium Point

- European Social Fund contributed to the Rover Task Force following the collapse of MG Rover

- The University of Birmingham's €13.5 million ENCCA project about cancer treatments for children and adolescents

- £741,000 for four International Dance Festival Birmingham events since 2008

According to its head Lloyd Broad, Birmingham's European & International Affairs team "leads on Brexit issues for the city" and looks after relations with its partner and sister cities including Chicago, Guangzhou, Johannesburg, Lyon, Milan, Leipzig and Frankfurt - the model, he says, for Birmingham's Christmas German market.

Salaries for the individual members of the team have not been disclosed.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bill Etheridge said it was time to "get out of the EU and into the world"

The annual rent of the Brussels office is £135,000, with contributions to running costs coming from council partners including the University of Birmingham, Aston University, Birmingham City University, the University of Warwick and Jaguar Land Rover. Hiring out the facilities for conferences also provides some income.

Those partners, Mr Broad said, have insisted the Brussels office is "required as much, if not more, post-Brexit" as EU policies "would still impact on the region" and funding "may still be available dependent on the type of Brexit deal negotiated for example research and innovation funding".

Bill Etheridge, a West Midlands UKIP MEP, said if universities had money to "splash around" it should be used to cut tuition fees "not to perpetuate links with a failing federal superstate".

The council is seeking the public's views on its budget proposals. The deadline is Wednesday.

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