The Mayor of Chicago said Brexit could be a “real opportunity” to forge closer ties with London today as she looks to court fintech firms on a trip to the Capital this week.
Speaking to City A.M. at Fintech Week London, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said London was brimming with “interesting innovation” and she was not waiting for a trade deal to build closer ties.
“Brexit creates a real opportunity for us to build closer trade relationships with the UK,” she told City A.M.
“At the national level, our governments are hopefully on the cusp of inking a trade deal, but we’re not waiting for that. We want to go directly to the market and talk about the opportunities for us to collaborate.”
Ministers in the UK have been looking to strike a trade deal with Washington in a bid to make up for a plunge in trade with countries in the EU, with UK exports to the EU fell by 15.6 per cent, or £12.4bn, in the first six months of 2021, according to a recent study from Aston University.
London and Chicago have built an informal relationship in the past and looked to open up stronger trading relationships for companies in the two cities, even without formal trade links.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in 2017 championed stronger trade and investment links between with Chicago when he welcomed Lightfoot’s predecessor Rahm Emanuel to the capital, as well as announcing the opening of a new overseas office in Chicago in 2018 to help US companies set up in London.
Lightfoot added that she had a “great meeting” with Khan and the pair were now looking to “expand the relationship” and “make it more formal”.
“Chicago year after year leads the U.S. in foreign direct investment, and the lion’s share of those dollars are coming from the UK,” she told City A.M.
“So we would be foolish not to make sure that we are tending to that relationship which is so beneficial to our local economy, and that’s a big part of what this trip is about.”
As part of Lightfoot’s trip to London, the Mayor’s delegation is looking to tempt more UK fintechs to expand into Chicago as the its fintech sector expands.
A March report on Chicago’s fintech ecosystem by World Business Chicago – which has joined the mayor in London – found that investment investment into fintech firms in the city reached $632.6m in the first two months of 2022, after more than doubling in 2021 to reach $4.58bn in 2021.