LONDON MAYOR DISMISSES CALLS FOR CAPITAL TO GO IT ALONE
LONDON Mayor Sadiq Khan has rejected calls for the Remain-dominated capital to secede from the rest of UK after the referendum voted to leave the European Union (EU) but said he wanted a “full seat” at any Brexit negotiations.
Khan also demanded more autonomy from central government, including on public spending, in order to “protect” the capital’s economy.
While the campaign to leave the EU won last Thursday’s (23) referendum nationwide with 52 per cent, Londoners voted 60 per cent in favour of Britain staying in the EU, along with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.
London should have “a full seat at the negotiating table”, Khan said at a business conference.
“Remaining in the single market needs to be priority one, two and three of our negotiation with the EU.
“As much as I might like the idea of a London city state, I’m not seriously talking about independence today. I am not planning to install border points on the M25,” Khan told the conference in London.
“But on behalf of all Londoners, I am demanding more autonomy for the capital – right now,” he said, adding: “We can’t hang around for the outcome of the negotiations before we give Londoners more control.”
Khan said: “London has to take back control too. Londoners, who voted for a different path to the rest of England, need more self determination. We need to control our own destiny.”
Khan, a former Labour MP from Tooting in south London, is seeking devolution of tax-raising powers, as well as more control over areas including business, transport, housing and planning, health and policing, his office said.
“More autonomy in order to protect London’s economy from the uncertainty ahead,” said Khan, 45, who grew up in public housing in inner-city south London.
Following the shock referendum result, an on- line petition urging Khan to declare independence and apply for London to join the EU independently received 175,000 signatures.
Khan said there was no way to reverse the result of the referendum and that Britain would have to leave the EU, though he expressed con- cern about the uncertainty that the vote had created for businesses in the capital.
“The speed of our exit from the EU looks likely to be decided in Brussels, Paris and Berlin rather than in London,” Khan said.
London, which offers by far the deepest pool of capital in the time zone between Asia and the US, accounts for 41 per cent of global foreign exchange turnover. That is more than double the nearest competitor, New York, and well above the 3 per cent of its closest EU competitors, France and Switzerland.
Banks based in London rely on a so-called EU “pass porting” system that allows them to operate across the 28-country bloc’s capital market unhindered. Some banks have said they would shift their operations to elsewhere in the Euro-zone if Britain left the EU.
Khan, who succeeded Conservative MP and leading Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson as may- or, said he had the support of local authorities and the City of London financial centre and called on business leaders to back his plan to get more control.
“Your voice matters… So that we can ensure that London thrives over the years ahead. So that we can ensure London remains the best place in the world to do business,” he said.
“It is now absolutely crucial that we move fast. We can’t hang around for the outcome of the EU negotiations before we give London more control
– it needs to happen now.” (AFP/Reuters)