A broad coalition of London businesses, institutions and politicians, including The Mayor of London, have called on Government to recognise that a trade-off between access to European markets and restrictions to freedom of movement would be a false and damaging choice for London and the UK.

The calls were made in an open letter to David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, published today and coordinated by Centre for London, the capital’s dedicated think tank.

The letter secured cross-party support from MPs, peers and London Assembly members as well as businesses, universities, SMEs and startups and business interest groups. The co-signatories include:

  • Michael Arthur, President and Provost of UCL
  • Lord Adonis
  • Tom Brake, Brexit Spokesperson for Liberal Democrats
  • Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood
  • Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
  • Councillor, Claire Kober, OBE, Chair of London Councils;
  • Charlie Mullins, OBE, Founder, Pimlico Plumbers
  • Nick Pearce, Director, The Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath
  • Russ Shaw, Founder, Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates
  • Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce
  • Chuka Umunna, leading supporter of Open Britain
  • The Baroness Wheatcroft
  • Jasmine Whitbread, CEO, London First

The letter highlighted that the capital “accounts for around 50 per cent of UK service exports, and its success depends on European markets and workers – more than 12 per cent of London’s workers are from other EU countries.” It went on to warn that losing access to talent from across the EU would “not only drain London’s businesses and its universities, but could also impair London’s character – as an open and welcoming city.”

The co-signatories called to on Government recognise London’s needs in the Brexit negotiations, and to:

  1. Commit to continued membership of the EU Single Market and customs union during a transition period, to enable businesses, universities and public bodies to plan with confidence for the future.
  2. Beyond the transition period, pursue a deal that enables - as far as possible - frictionless access to European talent for employers as well as guaranteeing the rights of existing EU workers, and integrated trading of services across the continent. The easiest and best way of achieving this would be to remain in the European single market.
  3. If London cannot remain in the single market, it needs a comprehensive trade deal that enables continuing trade in services across the continent and a liberal migration policy framework.
  4. Devolve powers to London to help it tackle its long-term challenges, and to make the city liveable and attractive for workers and investors alike. The letter has been released to mark the launch of Centre for London’s latest report on Brexit, Open City: London After Brexit, a joint project with the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath.

The report argues that if London is going to maintain its competitiveness from outside the EU, it will need continued access to international talent, a trade deal that reflects the importance of service sector exports, and new powers that will ready its citizens and infrastructure to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, by devolving control over local property taxes, as well as funding for childcare, early years education and apprenticeships.

Richard Brown, Research Director at Centre for London said:

“Over the past 25 years, London has become a pre-eminent global city. If Brexit makes it harder for London employers to access European talent, suppliers and markets, it could impair that position, and jeopardise the contribution that London makes to the UK economy.

“We are arguing for a better Brexit so that London can remain open to talent and trade, clarity on transitional arrangements to bolster business confidence during a period of uncertainty, and the devolution of powers and property taxes that can build a better, fairer city in the long term.”

Nick Pearce, Director, The Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath, said:

“It is not just the City of London that is critically dependent on trade and the movement of people within the EU. It is service sectors, like the media, tourism, and hospitality and catering, as well as public services, like universities. London must remain open to the flows of people and services in the European Union on which they rely.

“Our research also shows that London could become a fairer and more equal city if it had fiscal powers devolved to it from Westminster that would enable the Mayor and the boroughs to invest in more housing and better infrastructure."

Notes to editors

  • Centre for London is the capital’s dedicated think tank. Politically independent and a charity, the Centre develops new solutions to London’s critical challenges and advocate for a fair and prosperous global capital. We publish research. We hold events. We collaborate and influence.
  • The letter draws on research undertaken for ‘Open City – London After Brexit’, a joint project between Centre for London and the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath.
  • The report builds on recommendations set out in Centre for London’s manifesto, Better Brexit, Better City.

You can download the report here.