I write this article having just returned from a four day sprint through Europe, visiting the Czech Republic, Poland, and Romania.
A City business delegation joined me and showcased the best of the UK’s offer to the world, with companies such as the LSE, Smart Pension, Accenture and Comply Advantage.
The focus of this trip was to speak to senior business and government representatives in these key growth markets about the UK’s financial and professional services offer, and how we can help drive this growth in the years to come. I was also able to listen to their concerns and thoughts on the City and how we service their economies, and hear their thoughts and desires on Brexit.
Read more: One in six London workers are EU nationals
It was universally acknowledged in these three countries that London is far and away Europe’s largest and most important centre for financial and professional services.
Businesses told me that they want to have the closest possible relationship with London once we exit the union, and its associated Single Market, as this would be the best outcome for them and their clients. This message from European businesses seemed to be making it through to government, I am happy to report.
I emphasised to those with whom I spoke that the upcoming negotiations are not binary and zero-sum. With political will from both sides, a broad, mutually beneficial deal can be reached to foster business growth, and ensure continued investment on both sides of the English Channel.
When I met with our European friends I stressed that the City of London is not just an asset for the UK, but a European one as well, as it is the only global-scale financial centre on the continent of Europe.
Having this centre on their doorstep allows European businesses efficient and cost-effective access to the world's markets, driving growth, investment and prosperity.
Europe has a long and prosperous history of global trade and business, but in today’s world that is rapidly rebalancing towards the Eastern Hemisphere. We must work to protect and grow Europe’s global-scale assets, whether it is our unique cultural offer across the continent, our established products such as Scottish Whisky and Champagne, or our expertise in financial services, centred in London, that is unmatched across the world.
London serves not only as a gateway to Europe for global investors, but also a gateway to the world for European businesses looking to expand and invest overseas.
In Poland, I was given a tour of a tech incubator focused on up-scaling businesses from startups to regional – and eventually global – companies. The City of London is the natural partner for work such as this. When companies have access to the UK, they have access not only to London’s deep pools of capital and business expertise, but the world’s as well.
There must be an ambition across Europe to create an outward facing “Global Europe” not focused on protectionism, but based on a desire to grow global trade and the spread of European products and services across the world.
The City of London, as the world’s leading financial centre, is the ideal partner for this ambition, and I look forward to deepening relationships across Central and Eastern Europe as friends and business partners.