“Will London fall?” the New York Times sniffed this week, in a grittily-illustrated essay wondering whether the capital can retain its place in the world after Brexit.
The article, by a former Londoner who moved back to New York four years ago, painted London’s position as the UK’s political and cultural hub as out of step with the rest of the country: an island of Remain in a sea of Leave voters, ineffectually peddling liberal ideals to a nation rapidly losing patience with the over-educated metropolitan elite.
Peppered with quotes from Katie Hopkins (“London is… a city of ghettos behind a thin veneer of civility”) and The Sun (“Dover and Out”), the piece suggested the Brexit vote means London’s status as a sanctuary of liberalism is at threat. “[Even] German architects [and] French lawyers... are beginning to feel that the country is becoming cold and meanspirited and indifferent to their presence, if not openly hostile”.
Admittedly, after the result of the EU referendum, Londoners hesitated. But the piece’s view that London and the rest of Britain are drifting ideologically apart ignores the fact it is the capital which, whether it likes it or not, must eventually deliver Brexit.
What the UK commanded, London will make so: Brexit will be picked through, pawed over and brokered in the boardrooms and back offices and bars of the capital.
London’s pause after the EU referendum, the collective sigh it heaved, came as it took stock. But having paused for breath, run its sums and put together a to-do list, it is ready to make the most of its position of responsibility.
Not everyone in this city, home to 8.7m people, each with their own motives and agendas, may agree with the decision to leave the European Union. But its people have taken on the job of executing that decision with level-headed professionalism.
So no, New York Times, London will not fall once we have left the EU. Just as it is many-faceted, it is also deeply adaptable, meaning those in the capital will be better placed than anywhere else to seize on the opportunities created. And if there are voids after Brexit, London's mass will simply shift and spread to fill them.