Brexit presents both challenges and opportunities for the West London economy, according to experts in the region’s growth.
Professor Tony Travers, Director LSE London, told the Capital West London Growth Summit that despite the continued uncertainty, the UK and London economies have continued to grow, with London even nudging ahead of national levels in terms of employment.
However, he added: “London is a remarkably large city which has experienced economic growth over a sustained period. Brexit is a clear threat, an issue and the consequences for London and the UK economy are uncertain.”
He said 1-1.5 per cent growth was expected per year instead of 2 per cent but that a clearer picture should emerge in the next six months.
“There are two ways out of it,” he told CWL delegates. “A soggy, carries on forever in-transition Brexit, or a sudden, harder change Brexit. If it looks as if not much is changing, there would be renewed optimism in investment. If it’s a sudden sharp shock, the Government would have to borrow substantially to push against it.”
If it was the latter, cities and regions across the UK would have a list of projects to which investment could be directed and so, “either way round,” Prof Travers said, “there are opportunities”.
Some industries feared they would have difficulty recruiting highly-skilled people.
Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and a West London resident, said the UK has almost full employment domestically and so needs an inflow of people to fill jobs.
“My greatest fear is about access to talent,” he continued. “It’s the SMEs that need the overseas talent and it’s difficult for them to access that. People say businesses should be training people up but they do that and then these people are being hoovered up by big companies. London relies on overseas talent more than any other place in the country.”
Stuart Baillie, Head of Planning, GL Hearn, added: “It’s a real concern for the consultancy industry, looking at the talent pool, which has many overseas workers, and the ramifications.”
However, certain industries were unlikely to be affected and may even benefit.
Diana Foxlee, Head of Real Estate at Sky, said: “Sky is a global company relatively protected from the impact. We are still best placed to attract the best people wherever they come from.”
Oliver Bycroft, Director of Prologis, added: “The logistics sector is going to be fairly resilient. There are favourable fundamental changes, such as the shift to online shopping that will stand logistics in good stead. There may be counter trends with some businesses having to stock goods in the UK which will be beneficial if you own warehouses.”
Other speakers discussed immigration’s impact on society.
Colin Stanbridge, looked to culture, and said: “Part of the reason I want to live here and my children want to live here is because of immigration. It’s made it an attractive place to live, it contributes to place-making.”
Graeme Craig, Director of Commercial Development, Transport for London, praised London’s community cohesion, saying: “Going forward as a large city, we need to make sure people are fully equipped.
“We can’t do it alone, we need to work with partners and when we are doing what we do together, we do it as our best. We have got to maintain community cohesion. People respect each other and work well together.”
Cllr Graham Henson, Leader, London Borough of Harrow, agreed. He told delegates: “London gives you such a wide experience in life. We should cherish the fact we do work well together and give people the opportunities in life.”