Keeping our capital working for the UK

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Brexit needs business views

John Dickie, Executive Director of Strategy and Policy, London First 

Getting the right terms for Britain’s future relationship with the EU is the most important challenge any government has had to meet for decades. The election campaign saw little discussion over the substance of a deal; while the result gave no party a resounding mandate.

The new government and parliament must work together to establish a negotiating mandate which commands broad support in parliament. In doing so they must work closely with the devolved institutions, including the Mayor of London, who directly represents 14% of the UK population, 17% of UK jobs and 23% of UK GVA.

Government must also listen carefully to the needs of businesses from across the country. London First believes that the new settlement with the EU must be designed to maximise our competitiveness.

This means:

  • swift moves to give absolute certainty to EU nationals currently living and working in Britain; and
  • a new deal with the EU which ensures that British business can continue to drive UK growth and prosperity. The key planks of this new deal must be:
    • a British approach to immigration which ensures that business continues to have access to the talent the country needs, combined with a much more effective focus on improving our citizens’ education and training;
    • full access to the European single market, so that British business can continue to trade in both goods and services on a level playing field with our largest export markets; and
    • continued membership of the customs union, to ensure frictionless movement of goods and services between the UK and the rest of Europe and, in particular, to ensure no hard border between Northern Ireland and Eire. This can complement a more vigorous approach to driving trade globally.

It may prove difficult for the negotiations to reach a comprehensive deal by March 2019. If this is the case, we need transitional arrangements which do not threaten British jobs, growth or living standards, and which give adequate time to negotiate a full settlement.

In parallel with delivering the right deal on Brexit, we need to tackle the issues which will hold Britain back when we have left. Different counties, city-regions and nations will have their own priorities.

For London these are:

  •  accelerating house building. High housing costs following decades of building too few homes are not just a social problem; they also threaten London’s competitiveness. Doubling the number of homes we build in and around London requires bold actions – radical reform to our planning systems; increased public investment; and a stronger direct role by the public sector in delivering homes; and
  • improving transport. London’s transport infrastructure does not meet demand and this is set to worsen as the city-region grows. In addition to continuing to modernise existing capacity, we need bold new interventions – notably to begin work as soon as possible on building Crossrail 2.

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