On the eve of Britain exiting the EU, Kent County Council says it will continue to strengthen and build on its relationship with Europe and neighbouring local authorities on the Continent.
KCC has strong relationships across the Channel and has longstanding connections with French and Belgian local authorities.
Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough said: “With Britain leaving the EU tonight, our bilateral relationships with neighbouring authorities across the Channel has become even more important.
“We have a number of shared interests on which we need to work together from the economy, transport and environmental issues, to young people and promoting the culture, heritage and attractiveness of coastal and local communities.
“I was very pleased to be able to welcome representatives from our neighbouring authorities to County Hall in October for our European Regional Summit, days after becoming leader of the council.
“From our meetings, we agree that we need to work together while no longer within the common framework of the EU and the Single Market.
“I will continue to give a high level of importance to maintaining and developing those relationships.”
Recent meetings with partners from West Flanders, the Hauts-de-France region and the Pas de Calais Council have underlined their desire to work together to keep that relationship strong.
KCC Cabinet Member for Economic Development Mike Whiting says he intends to continue to work with Kent’s businesses to ensure the cross-Channel relationship continues.
He said: “I will be going to France on February 5 to launch the Straits Committee, a new initiative for strengthening links with our neighbours on the continent.
“Businesses will have the chance to meet counterparts from our neighbouring Belgian, Dutch and French regions and take part in a programme of workshops on economic development, climate change, green growth and young people.
“After Brexit, that isn’t the end of our relationship – we want to create new partnerships.
“Meetings with our European neighbours have shown a shared commitment to keeping our borders fluid, supporting our economies, tackling shared challenges and finding opportunities that will benefit our communities.
“The Straits Committee intends to provide a place where people, business and communities can shape an agenda for working together on issues and opportunities facing the shared border area.”
Kent’s location means its road, rail and port facilities are vital to the resilience of the county and the UK’s economy and productivity.
Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport Michael Payne said: “Each year £122 billion of trade in goods goes through Dover and over £115 billion through the Channel Tunnel. Eurostar facilities at Ebbsfleet and Ashford provide fast access for passenger journeys to mainland Europe.
“In November I signed a declaration of partnership on behalf of Kent with our European friends to work towards our ambition for making the transition to a low-carbon maritime industry as another step towards a low-carbon society and low-carbon economy.
“We also wish to work with national partners and businesses to support the development of ‘smart borders’ and logistics, which avoid border friction via the use of technological solutions and ensure free-flowing trade whilst getting the best deal for Kent and Medway businesses and exporters.
“We continue to work with the air and maritime industries and our partners in Europe to encourage sustainable growth and acceptable airspace change as well as supporting the aim of achieving a low-carbon maritime sector.”