Mayor of London Sadiq Khan will lay into what he describes as the “selective amnesia” of government ministers who ignore the impacts of Brexit on the British business community.
Speaking at a black tie dinner in the City tonight, Khan will say that the “unnecessarily hard-line version of Brexit (ministers have chosen) is having a detrimental effect on our capital and country – at a time when we can least afford it.”
The Mayor will say the City has been “hit hard by the loss of trade and talent to our competitors because of Brexit.”
Khan was a staunch opponent of Brexit during the referendum campaign in 2016 and at one point called for a second referendum on the terms of the UK’s departure deal from the bloc.
The Mayor will stop short of calling for a reversal of the UK’s decision to leave, saying “no one wants to see a return to the division and deadlock that dominated our body politic for five long years,” but instead push for a closer deal with the EU.
“After two years of denial and avoidance, we must now confront the hard truth: Brexit isn’t working. It’s weakened our economy, fractured our Union and diminished our reputation. But, crucially, not beyond repair,” he will say.
“We need greater alignment with our European neighbours – a shift from this extreme, hard Brexit we have now to a workable version that serves our economy and people. That includes having a pragmatic debate about the benefits of being a part of the Customs Union and the Single Market.”
Studies into the impact of Brexit on the City have varied in their conclusions, though one oft-cited report from EY found that job losses related to the UK’s departure number just 7,000 – some way lower than estimates before the referendum.
The Mayor will speak at the London Government Dinner alongside the Lord Mayor of the City of London, an annual gathering of the capital’s political, business and media leaders.
Khan’s call for a closer relationship with the European Union post-Brexit is likely to fall on deaf ears in Whitehall.