As the debate around our future relationship with the European Union continues, we at the City
Corporation have been focusing on building even stronger ties with our closest neighbours.
Over the past two weeks, I have visited Dublin, Belfast and Derry-Londonderry to do just that.
Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have long-standing historic ties with the City of London, which have today evolved into a modern partnership around trade and innovation.
We know that working even more closely together with the Island of Ireland — both North and South — will be all the more important as we enter a new phase following our departure from the EU.
In recent years, both have developed burgeoning financial services hubs. Today, Northern Ireland plays a significant part in the success of UK finance, with its 50,000 sector jobs spreading from Belfast to Derry. And Dublin has gone from strength to strength — now an internationally regarded finance hub that complements London’s global offer.
So as we look to recalibrate the parameters within which we trade with the EU, it is important that we remember the prominent role of the services sector across the UK and Ireland, which contributes the lion share to each country’s economy.
This point was made abundantly clear to me over the past two weeks. from senior politicians to regulators to businesses — first in Belfast and Derry, and then at the European Financial Forum in Dublin.
That’s why I used my trip to bang the drum for the services sector at home and abroad. We have long said that we want a positive future relationship with the EU which works for businesses and households on both sides of the channel.
This matters not just to London, but also to our friends in Northern Ireland, Ireland, and wider Europe.
One outstanding issue repeatedly raised, which is vital to businesses and citizens across the UK and EU, is reaching an agreement on cross-border data flows. This is particularly acute across the Irish border.
Although especially critical in insurance, it goes beyond the financial and professional services sector.
With the digitisation of everyday services now ubiquitous, what will happen to people’s ability to use hospitals across the border if their records cannot follow them? These are issues that matter to ordinary people, on which we must urgently reach an agreement with our European partners.
With the unique challenges posed by the Irish border and a border in the Irish Sea, my visit brought home the key issues to be resolved for our sector. Clearly, negotiations should not be a zero-sum game for different sectors, but services should not be an afterthought.
We need an agreement that properly recognises the economic clout of the services sector, securing maximum market access and developing a structure for the UK and EU to prosper in the years ahead.
Returning to the City of London, I am clearer than ever that strong, mutually beneficial relationships in financial and professional services — whether with Dublin, Belfast or Brussels — will be fundamental to our success in this new post-Brexit chapter.
Main image credit: Getty