The London Stock Exchange is run by a Frenchman. The Bank of England is governed by a Canadian. The mayor of London is the son of a Pakistani immigrant. London is, and always has been, an internationally focused, vibrant city, and this outward facing and welcoming nature must continue.
It has now been two weeks since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, and there are still more questions than answers about what comes next. There is one group of people more anxious than most, looking for word about what happens next. I am of course referring to the uncertainty of European citizens living and working in the UK.
Inga Beale, the chief executive of Lloyd’s of London, recently commented that “the uncertainty is painful…we can’t sit around not knowing what the future is going to be”. While she was speaking about business’s thoughts on Brexit, she very well could have been summing up the thoughts of the millions of Europeans who have decided to live in and contribute to our country. The question of what happens to them is critical, and must be decided in the coming weeks and months, as they will not just “sit around” for decisions to be made about their futures and it would not serve our country to lose these talented individuals.
The City of London has always maintained that European citizens, and indeed those from outside the EU, make a positive contribution to the City’s and the country’s economy, providing valuable skillsets that have helped make the City the successful, world-leading place it is today.
Approximately 10 per cent of workers in London’s finance and insurance industry are from countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), where the freedom of movement applies. There are more than 3m non-British Europeans living in the country. It is difficult to provide an exact breakdown of the types of jobs these individuals hold, but it should be noted that there is a higher concentration of EEA nationals working in London (when compared to the rest of the country) in highly-skilled sectors and managerial positions.
The first step in maintaining our position as the world’s leading centre to do business is for the government to reassure workers from EU member states who are not British subjects that they and their families will not lose their right to live and work in the UK.
I have been particularly appalled by the numerous reports of disgraceful xenophobic behaviour on the part of a small portion of the population that followed the referendum. While most campaigners argued in a legitimate and rational way for Britain to leave the EU, the result can be no justification for a small minority to harass citizens of other countries who contribute hugely to London’s economy and society.
I join with others, including our mayor Sadiq Khan, in condemning such attacks and commit to preserving London’s highly successful multicultural society.