City of London Corporation News Release: Speech by Policy Chairman Mark Boleat
“It was originally planned to hold this dinner some six months ago – when David Cameron was Prime Minister, Britain was expected to remain a member of the EU and Boris Johnson was Mayor of London. Much has changed since then. But at the same time, not much has changed.
“London is and will remain a great global city. Let me offer a quote from Nicolas Mackel, the head of financial development for Luxembourg: “London is the major global financial centre and will remain the global financial centre. You have built London over decades, you have the infrastructure, the depth of expertise that is unmatched”. Admittedly he did go on to extoll the virtues of Luxembourg.
“But London will retain its present status only if it retains the multitude of inter-related features that have made it a global centre – for finance, business, culture, sport, the professions and education among many others sectors, and a great place in which to live and work.
“For this to occur London needs to have excellent connectivity – physical and electronic - and be open to new ideas, new talent and new technology. We do not score well on connectivity – our position on airport capacity is well known, not least for the interminable time the decision-taking process takes. And on electronic connectivity we must aspire to match the performance of countries like Malta and Lithuania. We have scored well on openness – that need not and must not be threatened by Brexit.
“And so to Brexit itself. The City Corporation supported remaining in the EU, but on June 24 we moved on and our work has concentrated on helping to secure the most advantageous new arrangement with the EU and at the same time, strengthening our work to exploit other opportunities for the City and the country. We had decided prior to the referendum to commit an additional £2.5 million a year to supporting the work we do to promote trade and investment and we are now in the process of building up our resources to enable us to do so.
“Britain voted to leave the EU, but not as ministers keep telling us - to leave Europe – something which in any event would be difficult even for the most ambitious of politicians. But the decision on what sort of Brexit is probably more important than the decision to Brexit itself. Business – and London – must continue vigorously to make the case for a Brexit that retains as many of the benefits of membership of the single market as possible and which does not unreasonably reduce the ability of businesses to employ talent from the European Union. Last week, together with PwC, we published a report on the concept on regional differentiation of visa requirements – something well worth considering given the support for devolution generally and clear variations between different parts of the country on the immigration issue.
“Let me now link Brexit and the City’s role in London. The finance industry’s huge work on Brexit options has highlighted the importance of the City ecosystem – the network of infrastructure, markets, businesses and people which make the whole much greater than the sum of the parts, an ecosystem that cannot be replicated, certainly in the short term. The City contributes massively to this ecosystem through our planning policies, our outstanding public realm, our cultural work, our ability to convene and provide a forum for key people to get together, well -illustrated this evening, and the role of the City of London Police, which specialises in combatting economic crime.
“There is a clear message for politicians in Britain – and in the EU 27 – that parts of the ecosystem cannot be plucked out with the rest remaining unchanged. The City is the financial centre serving individuals and corporates in the whole of Europe not just the UK. While it is inevitable that we will lose some business as a result of Brexit, we need to make the case for continuing to have financial markets that serve the whole economy and society. To the extent that some activities will no longer be able to be conducted from London, there needs to be suitable transition arrangements so that there is not unnecessary harm to employment and the economy generally. And it is not a question of the number of jobs being lost in the UK being matched by jobs gained elsewhere in the EU 27. It is already apparent that the biggest beneficiary of any job losses in the UK will be New York, and some employment will simply stop as the volume of business can no longer be supported by the higher costs.
“Many of tonight’s guests represent London’s government and communities so let me finish by talking about the London ecosystem of which the City is a part. I have never regarded the City and the financial services industry as the powerhouse of the London economy let alone the British economy. Rather I regard them as an essential part, with the other parts, of the London ecosystem. For that reason the City does, and must, play a major role in London, benefitting as we do from our history which has left us with resources that we deploy for the benefit of the whole of London – and indeed the country. This magnificent Museum, a joint venture between the City and the GLA, is one such example. And we are about to embark on an ambitious project that will give the Museum the building that it needs rather than this – less than ideal – structure. And this site lends itself to a concert hall which would do justice to London.
“I enjoyed a rare benefit for a politician – I had three years before I became chairman knowing that I would, in all probability, become chairman and at no time did I have to make promises that I knew I would regret in order to be elected. One of my three objectives as Chairman was to “substantially increase contributions to deal with London issues, particularly education, employment and cultural opportunities”, building on the work of my predecessors. I have endeavoured to do this and have found nothing but enthusiasm on the part of colleagues in the City and the wider London to support this.
“I have just 188 days, 16 hours and 20 minutes before I am timed out as Policy Chairman. During that time I will continue to pursue the City’s objectives in respect of London and Brexit as will my successor. I think the next 12 months will be crucial because it is in that time frame that the die will be cast on post-Brexit Britain. We will do all that we can to achieve the right sort of Brexit, a Brexit that retains London as a vibrant, diverse, open, progressive City and the world’s leading finance and business centre.”