Brexit – Five asks from London’s business community
In advance of the Prime Minister’s Florence speech, Lexington hosted a discussion with London’s Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, and a number of business leaders, to assess what the city needs to stay competitive after Brexit. We identified five themes from the event...
#1 – Maintain access to talent London’s businesses need
The single most important issue for London’s businesses is attracting the talented people with the skills they need to grow. Whether seeking fresh, highly skilled talent for the creative, technology and financial services sectors, or driving the capital’s economic engine on construction sites, EU workers play a critical role in London’s economy. A pragmatic approach to this, with a suitable visa and immigration system, will be essential.
However, London’s businesses also need to continue their hard work to ensure UK citizens have access to career and training opportunities. This will nurture talent for the future. Partnerships such as the London First Skills Commission, the Mayor’s Skills for Londoners and the Government’s apprenticeships programme were all welcomed, but considered only part of the solution.
#2 – Get on with the job and provide certainty urgently
Businesses need a brief from the Government about what Brexit will look like. Without this, companies cannot plan future investment or identify resources required to address new legislative, regulatory and trading structures. The sooner some clarity can be provided, the better. There was concern that the capital city was already losing out to European peers, with businesses putting projects on hold or refocusing investment abroad.
#3 – Confirm the status of EU citizens in the UK
London is a multicultural city. We heard personal stories of friends and neighbours, employees and co-workers who do not yet have clarity about their future status. This has caused understandable concerns and challenges for businesses looking to plan for the long term. If backed by action, the Prime Minister’s post-speech answer to an Italian journalist should go some way to reassure. She said: “We want them [EU citizens] to be able to stay and to have the same rights as they have at the moment.”
#4 – ‘Double down’ on the London is Open campaign
London is and will remain one of the best places to live, work and play. The Mayor’s London is Open campaign was congratulated and the message from our panel and guests was that everyone with a stake in the capital will need to continue demonstrating the capital’s open, welcoming, multicultural status. London is ready to welcome visitors and businesses and continue playing a leading role on the world stage.
#5 – Maintain Single Market access
No conversation about Brexit is complete without discussing Single Market access. Sadiq Khan has placed this at the centre of his Brexit agenda and so do many of the capital’s companies.
London’s businesses want the greatest possible access to the EU marketplace, which is the UK’s largest trading partner. This stretches far beyond the customs union and border control issues that have been highlighted in the media recently, with so much of London’s trade coming from financial services, creative industries and the services sector.
By Francis Mallinson, Senior Consultant