Wednesday 16 September 2020 3:26 pm

Break international law 'at our peril', says City of London policy chief

The City of London’s policy chair has warned the government that it must assure investors that the UK will not break international law over the current Brexit negotiations.

Catherine McGuinness said that the alarm around the Internal Market Bill could prove problematic for future investment.

Read more: Brexit: UK’s justice secretary will not quit over international law breach

Speaking to the PA news agency, she said that Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis’ admission that the UK would break international law in a “specific and limited way” had “given people pause for thought”.

“The rule of law is the bedrock of our system and we undermine it at our peril”, she added.

McGuinness was speaking after a new survey conducted by the City of London Corporation showed that 99 per cent of investors are still enthusiastic about putting their money into the capital’s business district.

The survey was conducted before Lewis’ comments on the new legislation.

With the City still empty of workers, she also said that it was vital that staff returned to their offices, saying that face-to-face work was essential for building new relationships.

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“These are challenging times and we’ve seen the ebb and flow of city life really disrupted by Covid”, she said. 

“The city has shown its resilience and professional services firms are thriving with adapting to working from home. But we have a tale of two cities – with ancillary services like coffee shops and barbers suffering.

“We think it would be good to have more footfall in central London. They need to be brought back safely and follow guidelines, without forgetting the flexibility we’ve seen adopted.”

However, she added that the number of people working from the office would not return to pre-pandemic levels for several years.

“It’s too early to say what things will look like in two or three years’ time. In the short term we’re not going to see full footfall back until the pandemic is well and truly over. 

Read more: BCC president warns Boris Johnson of ‘difficult winter ahead’

“When it comes to office footfall – that’s not going to go to what it was before, before then.”

According to the latest data from Transport for London, there were 1.47m Tube journeys on 13 September, compared to nearly 4m a day back in March.

The figure has been rising by roughly 100,000 a week for the last month or so.