Whatever your feelings about Brexit, it is, as things stand, going to happen some time in some form. Londoners are divided on the issue. Yes, in June 2016 the capital was a beacon of Remain conviction in the UK, by a margin of 60% to 40%. Yes, recent research commissioned by anti-Brexit campaigners Best For Britain and anti-racist group Hope Not Hate concluded that even more Londoners now oppose withdrawing from the European Union. But 40% was still a large minority and even if it has reduced in the past two years, we are still talking about a lot of Londoners. Their views matter and reasoned, honest arguments that London and its people will be better off after Brexit deserve a fair and thorough hearing.
That is part of the rationale for On London, in partnership with the London Society, organising a London and Brexit debate, to be held on Thursday 13 September at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square. Another part is that those who favour Brexit, having got their way nationally on 23 June 2016, should, as the withdrawal process approaches a crucial stage, have their views tested with the same fairness and thoroughness. In what ways will the capital and its pro-Remain majority be better off because of Brexit? Can such an outcome possibly be forthcoming and shouldn’t the entire Brexit project be recognised as a disaster in the making and be dumped?
There is a further good reason for holding such a debate. The issue is, of course, extremely polarising. But if there is a patch of common ground it is probably that the prospect of Brexit has engendered uncertainty, whether about the quality and composition of London’s economy, the demands on its layers of government and, perhaps even more elusively, how Londoners will feel about the character of their city in years to come. Amid the heat generated by Brexit there is a need for light to be shed on some of these matters. If and when Brexit happens, how will London change and adapt?
My friends at the London Society and I are delighted with our line up of speakers. To give the event a clear focus and to present a healthy challenge to the majority London view, we have asked those speakers to propose or oppose the following motion: This House Believes That Brexit Will Be Good For London. The speakers in favour are:
- Victoria Hewson, senior counsel to the international trade and competition unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs. Victoria is a contributor to Brexit Central and, of course, to the IEA’s own website.
- Daniel Moylan, a former adviser to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor and a former deputy chairman of Transport for London. Daniel too has written for Brexit Central and has argued at On London that Brexit will make London more global.
Speaking against the motion will be:
- Andrew Adonis, the former Labour minister who has been campaigning across the country to stop Brexit from happening. He argues that Britain must change, but within the EU not outside it, and he warns that London could easily lose its position as the effective “capital of Europe”.
- Caroline Pidgeon MBE, the distinguished Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member. A passionate Remainer, Caroline has claimed that Brexit could cost London billions of pounds of funding for vital building and transport projects.
This is a high quality line-up for what we believe will be a top class debate. I will be chairing. Tickets are on sale from the London Society website. It would be great to see plenty of On London readers there.