At a recent London Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) event, delegates heard a number of speakers talk about what could happen to London’s business environment after Brexit.
Deputy Mayor for business, Rajesh Agrawal, kicked thigs off with an impassioned plea to London’s businesses to be more self-confident. “London is still a city of opportunities”, he said. “Our goal must be to protect jobs growth, and to make sure the voice of business is not ignored. London remains opn, our one million EU workers will stay and remain part of our city. Indeed we are reaching out to other cities in collaboration, we signed a city-to-city agremment with Berlin recently.”
Oliver Wright, of ComRes, presented some research. They asked councillors, business people, and the general public what they thought about a number of Brexit related issues, which foud the sudiences predictably split on most issues. “There is an opportunity for London to position more as a global city”, he said. “But it is important that the Mayor of London has control of the right levers of power. London needs to control its own taxes, immigration, and homes delivery.”
A panel then discussed a variety of issues. Professor Tony Travers of the LSE felt that while Brexit would bring some disruption, over the next couple of decades, London could still grow. “An open economy, less protectionist rules, that should be good for London, but not for the rest of the UK”, he said.
There would likely be more pressure on London’s population, Travers said. Immigration is likely to remain at similar levels, but if there is a shift from EU migrants to non-EU migrants, they will tend to settle in urban environemtns more, bring pressure to cities.
Julia Onslow-Cole, of Fragomen, felt that there would be pressure on low-paid labout, both skiled ad low-skilled. She was concerned that the ability to only stay temporarily – for 12 onths maximum – would make life difficult for employers, and that the £30,000 limit below which workers would ne be able to be imported, would cause a problem in a number of sectors. She felt that should be more like £21,500.
She felt that all companies would be affected, not just those with international supply chains. “Everyone is interconnected, even a small business with UK suppliers and customers will be connected through them to cross border trade.”
In this spirit, Andrew Gray, of PwC, warned all busiesses that they should get themselves ready for no-deal. Preparation would be key to performance int hat instance, he said.
But it was Tony Travers who made the most teling comment. “Remember the things we are not talking about because of this – London’s housing need, Crossrail 2 – these are trememndously important to London, and must be addressed.”