Lancashire businesses will have special access to German trade deals through a new scheme unveiled by two MEPs, inspired by an 18th century Lancashire industrialist.
The two MEP’s are Wajid Khan, MEP for the North West and Arndt Kohn, MEP for Germany. Because their names are alphabetically close they are placed next to each other in the European Parliament.
One day, MEP Kohn turned to MEP Khan and asked, ‘Have you heard of Haslingden?’, and began to tell the story of the Cockerill family.
William Cockerill moved from his native Haslingden to continental Europe in the 1700’s and made his fortune inventing machines for textile manufacturing. He is credited with bringing the industrial revolution to Belgium. After the business passed to his sons, Cockerill factories, mines, engines and inventions spread across the whole region and into the German border region, Aachen.
The Cockerill influence is still visible there today, in terraced mill houses and streets and squares bearing the family name.
The story so captured the North West MEP that he arranged a trip to the region for Labour councillors from Lancashire County Council. The trip included a presentation to the Aachen council chamber. There, German representatives unanimously approved a plan to facilitate trade and business links between Aachen and Lancashire.
Lancashire councillors Gillian Oliver from Preston and John Fillis from Skelmerdale returned from Aachen committed to promoting the Cockerill Scheme to Lancashire businesses.
Cllr Oliver said: “Despite the storm clouds of Brexit, the Cockerill story inspires us. There are concrete things we can do to foster business partnerships between our two regions, which are actually similar; a region of towns, and about the same size.”
The idea is to create an online portal to connect businesses, but as the project gets off the ground the MEP’s offices will be the first point of contact.
MEP Wajid Khan, who lives just a few miles from Haslingden in Burnley, said: “If you make apps in Accrington or wallets in Whalley, we want to help you promote and establish your business in Germany. Get in touch and let us support you.”