City demands a Brexit that works for London

Leading City figures on Wednesday urged Theresa May to secure a stop-gap deal with Europe and safeguard the future of EU workers as the UK took its first steps on the historic path to Brexit.

The Prime Minister’s formal triggering of Article 50 negotiations with the EU sets the clock ticking on a two-year negotiation which will see the UK end its 46-year membership of the EU in March 2019.

But it throws a huge cloud of uncertainty over the UK’s trade relationship with the EU as well as the ability of London firms to trade in Europe.

The CBI’s director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said Article 50 was “a pivotal moment in our history and the time to be ambitious, level-headed and confident”, adding: “Our shared aim must be to forge a mutually beneficial deal that delivers barrier-free trade and safeguards prosperity for all.

“Early signs of progress will build confidence, and most welcome of all would be the immediate guarantee of the right to remain for EU citizens here and UK nationals in Europe.”

Mark Boleat, policy chairman of the City of London Corporation, said a transitional deal was “essential” and an agreement “as close as possible” to existing arrangements.

Rob Noel, chief executive of property firm Land Securities, said London “has been a trading post for many hundreds of years and it will remain one for many hundreds of years”.

But with the UK’s building industry dependent on overseas workers, he urged May to act in London’s best interests. “In order to lessen any economic fallout from Brexit can the Government please make the trading environment for business as stable as it can, because business likes stability. If you want to encourage investment, then keep things stable,” he said.

Chris Grigg, chief executive of British Land added: “London will endure because it has got a lot of natural advantages. But the potential for a slip is there.”

Aviva chief Mark Wilson said London would “remain a pre-eminent global centre for finance and insurance” despite uncertainty. “The City’s unique strengths of innovation, diversity, technical expertise and economic pragmatism are inbuilt advantages that other European cities simply do not possess.”

Richard Tice, co-chairman of Leave Means Leave, also stressed the extent European banks rely on the City’s debt and equity markets: “Remainers have to get behind the Government and frankly get behind Britain as opposed to whingeing from the rooftops. The Square Mile, and circular mile around Westminster, is the volcanic core of the Remain lobby that still wants to try to stop it. All that does is give ammunition to Brussels.”

CMC Markets chief executive Peter Cruddas — another prominent Brexiteer — suggested May would have to fight “prominent Remainers” working to stay in the EU.

He said: “Whatever noise is made about triggering Article 50 by politicians and Remainers, our separation from the EU must not go against the electorate’s wishes.”

He added: “The EU referendum was the biggest democratic process in our history and the message was clear — ‘Vote Leave: take back control’. That moment has arrived and it should be full steam ahead to a new and bright future as an independent trading nation.”

March 29th, 2017: Standard