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“As expected, the Prime Minister has today triggered Article 50 setting the UK on a course to leave the European Union and triggering what are sure to be long, complex and arduous negotiations.

“However, today is not just about leaving the European Union, it is also about the future of the British state.

“I believe this process represents an unparalleled opportunity to re-model the UK, making us a less centralised, more inclusive and more democratic place that is better able to respond effectively to the needs of local communities. We now need to make sure powers and funding ‘repatriated’ from Brussels are not just passed down to national parliaments, including Holyrood and Cardiff Bay, but also to Core Cities.

“Core Cities are the engines of our nation’s growth. They already produce a quarter of our national economy, but given the right freedoms and policy levers they could do so much better, creating a smarter state and an economy that works for all.

“Local Government leaders and mayors, including myself, will continue to reinforce the case for cities over the coming two years, particularly on issues like replacement for existing EU funding and continued inward migration.

“We will make sure that cities remain friendly, diverse and welcoming places for all our citizens and we will stand firm against those who would seek to divide us.

“However, it’s important to remember Brexit is an expression of dissatisfaction with remote policy making. There are many other urgent issues confronting the UK at the moment. Housing, job security, education, skills, social care and air pollution are far more relevant to the daily lives of millions of our citizens.

“We have to find a way to make Brexit work for all communities, especially people who are distant or marginalised from the workplace.

“We will always argue that local approaches are our best hope of solving these challenges and will continue to advocate innovative and evidence-based solutions to do that.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and Chair of Core Cities UK