MEMBERS of a European body set up to promote participation in the EU are holding talks in Scotland in a bid to establish “a structured form of co-operation” with organisations in the country after Brexit.

The delegation from the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) have embarked on a two-day visit to meet with politicians, trade unions and business leaders.

It is headed by Stefano Mallia, chair of the EESC’s “Brexit follow-up group”, which yesterday met with External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop and Holyrood’s European Affairs Committee convener Joan McAlpine in Edinburgh.

Ahead of the visit, Mallia said: “The UK has a relationship with the EU which is built over 45 years of EU membership. It is therefore a special relationship, which the EESC, as the representative of organised civil society, is determined to preserve. The goal of our mission in Scotland is to prepare the ground work required to ensure that the relationship can and will continue even in a post-Brexit era.”

The National: Stefano Mallia met with Scottish politiciansStefano Mallia met with Scottish politicians

A European Commission statement added: “The purpose of this visit is to reflect on the ways and means of establishing a structured form of cooperation with UK organised civil society after Brexit.

“The EESC holds firmly the view that the ties and the relationship built over the years with civil society organisations in the UK are not only not lost after Brexit, but also consolidated and strengthened.”

The delegation also met with representatives of the Citizens’ Assembly and other groups including the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and the STUC.

On its website, the Committee cites three missions: helping to ensure European policies and legislation tie in better with circumstances on the ground, “promoting participation in the European Union” and “promoting European integration and values”.

It adds that “the EESC is a consultative body that gives representatives of Europe’s interest groups a formal platform to express their points of view on EU issues.

“Its opinions are addressed to the Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament. It thus has a key role to play in the Union’s decision-making process.”

The EESC was set up by the 1957 Rome Treaties to involve groups in the establishment of the common market and to provide a structure for briefing the European Commission and the Council of Ministers on European issues.

The delegation will also travel to North Ayrshire to consider the implications of Brexit on the economy.