London is, and always will be, open for business.
Once, we were the world’s largest port – from which ships traded around the globe. Over the last century, we grew to become the world’s most competitive financial centre. And now, as we face the challenges thrown up by the result of the referendum on our EU membership, we must do all we can to ensure that, whatever may transpire, London remains the best place in the world to do business.
Of course, the City’s reaction to the result of the referendum has been a negative one. Like the vast majority of my fellow entrepreneurs and business owners, it was a result that I did not want and one which I fought against.
Now, however, we have to face up to reality. I have been offered the opportunity by our new mayor Sadiq Khan to play my part in ensuring that, come what may, we continue to thrive as a city. In my new role as deputy mayor for business, I am proud to have the chance to serve London’s business community, 15 years after I arrived at Heathrow from India with £200 in my pocket and instantly felt welcome in the city I now call home.
Sadiq and I are clear that, as the driving force of the UK’s economy, London must have a seat at the decision-making table for the process of negotiation with the EU.
Within that discussion, first and foremost, we will seek to protect our access to the Single Market and passporting, which have long been central to London’s appeal as a base for financial and professional services. Sadiq will be pressing the new Prime Minister, whoever he or she may be, and the EU to reach agreement on this key principle as soon as possible.
While we go about that process, writing as a businessman to other businesspeople, I ask for your support and confidence. Working together, we can keep London open for business, and keep it leading in the world. This is no time for knee-jerk decisions, and I know that our international businesses, and their leaders, will share in my aim of keeping the ship steady as we enter choppy economic waters.
At the same time, we must not lose sight of the rich economic opportunities that lie ahead. Today, and increasingly in the future, our tech sector is a beacon. We are a leading player in fintech – and through the platforms and opportunities that this sector, and other parts of the tech landscape, are creating, London’s businesses will find new ways to trade with the world.
Just yesterday evening, Stripe, a $5bn Silicon Valley startup, opened its new flagship office in our own Silicon Roundabout – a company offering a new solution for British firms to access a global marketplace, looking optimistically forward. This is just one example of the opportunities that exist, and will always exist, for entrepreneurs, homegrown or international, in this great city.
Further opportunity lies in the devolution of fiscal and other powers to London. With such powers, we can do more to protect our economy from the uncertainty that lies ahead, to ensure a greater supply of homegrown talent with the skills that our businesses need, and to deliver the infrastructure that will boost our competitiveness.
Above all, as deputy mayor for business I will be a voice for entrepreneurs and for business leaders in City Hall. Working together with Sadiq, who will be the most pro-business mayor London has ever had, we will ensure that the concerns and priorities of our great business sectors are at the forefront of decision-making and planning, and that London remains open for business.