The referendum on Britain’s European Union membership is threatening to tear apart an historic City institution, as members of the City of London Corporation dispute whether the Corporation should back the remain or leave campaigns.
In an open letter published on Monday in City A.M., more than a dozen City grandees urged the Corporation to remain neutral in the run-up to the In/Out vote. Former chancellor Lord Lamont, Risk Capital Partners chairman Luke Johnson and Ruth Lea of Arbuthnot Banking Group were among those calling on the Corporation to maintain independence.
“Such a decision would effectively be the Corporation adopting a partisan political stance on the biggest subject of the day, when it will have to work with administrations to represent the Square Mile in both Westminster and Brussels regardless of the outcome,” they wrote in Monday’s letter, adding, “In this debate, the City should maintain the age-old neutrality that has served it so well for so long.”
Today, ten more City figures, all members of the Corporation, have seconded the letter with another statement in City A.M., saying they agree with the “call for caution as the referendum debate is potentially divisive”.
“The Corporation has a long term mission to promote and represent all of activities of the City of London and its residents,” they said. “As members, we believe this can best be achieved by remaining neutral in the referendum debate, so we can work with all parties to fulfil that mission after the referendum, regardless of outcome.”
The Corporation has yet to take an official position on the UK’s EU membership, but Mark Boleat, who chairs the Corporation’s policy and resources committee, has repeatedly made the case for the UK staying in the EU, saying in interviews that Brexit would introduce “massive uncertainty” and warning that there is a “lack of realistic alternatives” to EU membership.
When asked about the Corporation’s stance yesterday, a City of London Corporation spokesperson said: “Members of the policy and resources committee will discuss and debate this matter in the normal way ahead of a final decision by the Court of the Common Council.”
City A.M. understands that the policy and resources committee is scheduled to meet this week to discuss the issue.