As someone who campaigned passionately for Remain in the EU referendum last year, I understand the concerns of the thousands who took to London’s streets last weekend worried about the triggering of Article 50. But, as a democrat, I believe we have to respect the decision taken by the British electorate last June.
Our task now is to bring the country back together after all the division of the campaign and to negotiate a deal for our departure from the EU that works for everyone. The way the government handles the negotiations that are about to start will shape Britain’s relationship with Europe for decades, so Parliament has to listen to the needs of areas like London that did not choose this outcome, but will be affected by it all the same.
London is the UK’s economic powerhouse and its underlying attractiveness as a place to live, work and do business will remain whatever Brexit brings. People love London for its quality of life, its stable legal system, efficient public transport, green open spaces, amazing arts, and access to lots of opportunities. That won’t change outside of the EU.
Nevertheless, the city now faces a time of uncertainty. How will our fast-growing tech sector be affected if we adopt different data sharing rules to Europe? How can the creative industries be sure that they will be able to sign up new talent as our immigration rules change? Will the same number of European students still come to study at London’s world-beating universities? And what about London’s position as the pre-eminent financial centre in the world?
We know that companies in the City are already discussing how to respond to Brexit, including the possibility of moving some staff abroad, so holding on to “passporting rights” – which allow banks to trade freely across Europe – could be crucial in maintaining London’s financial edge.
It is also possible that the Article 50 negotiating period may be too short to hammer out a comprehensive new agreement covering goods and services by the time we leave. When the Brexit secretary David Davis appeared before our committee recently, he confirmed that ending up without a deal would mean the loss of these passporting rights for banks. He also told us that the government had not assessed the potential impact that leaving without an agreement would have on our economy.
An agreement that maintains tariff and barrier-free trade must therefore be a priority. If, however, one still hasn’t been achieved by the time the UK leaves the EU, it would be in the interests of both sides to agree transitional arrangements to maintain tariff free trade until a final deal is reached.
Last June’s vote decided that we are leaving the EU, but it did not determine the terms of our departure. So let’s now work for a deal that is in the interests of London as well as the whole of the UK.