The Mayor of London has warned that the UK is at its “greatest risk yet” of leaving the European Union on a “no deal” basis and said the capital’s economy is already being hit by Brexit as key industries are hit by falls in migration by workers from other EU states.
Speaking at his monthly Mayor’s Question Times session this morning, Sadiq Khan said a “no deal” exit from the European Union would be “catastrophic for businesses, catastrophic for the NHS, catastrophic for construction and catastrophic for how Londoners feel about their future as well”.
Damning the government’s negotiations with the EU as “hopeless”, he also claimed that Theresa May’s current proposed Brexit deal would “worsen life chance and opportunities in London and across the UK for future generations” and that she should withdraw Article 50. “It’s time to give the public the final say on Brexit and the option of remaining in the EU,” he said.
He described as “noteworthy” that while the Prime Minster saw fit to offer MPs a second chance to vote on her Brexit deal and may offer them a third, she does not want to extend a similar opportunity to the British public in the form of a fresh referendum or “Peoples’ Vote”. He accused her of being “scared” to do so.
The Mayor told London Assembly Labour Group leader Len Duvall, who represents Greenwich & Lewisham, that the capital’s economy is already seeing “adverse consequences” from a fall in migration from EU states, and stressed that this is happening even before the government’s planned imposition of an income threshold on prospective migrants, which, the Mayor said, means that “unless you earn more than £30,000 a year it will be very hard for you to come here and work” and would “decimate many industries across London”.
He also criticised a “lack of urgency” around government measures for training more British citizens to fill the gap, saying employers have expressed to him concerns about the workings of the apprenticeship levy system.
The Mayor agreed with Andrew Dismore, the AM for Barnet & Camden, who put it to him that politicians who argue that a “no deal” outcome would not be problematic because World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules that would come into play are favourable are being “disingenuous”. Rebuking Conservative AMs, all of whom are Brexiters, for “hectoring” while he spoke, the Mayor endorsed Dismore’s point that WTO article 28 would create less favourable conditions for the export of services, which make up the bulk of the capital’s economy. He described Brexiters’ upbeat claims about WTO rules as “nonsense”.
Mayor Khan’s comments came as an online petition calling for Article 50 to be revoked and for the UK to remain in the EU was signed by over 600,000 people before crashing the government’s website. A site map showed that Londoners were very strongly represented, including over 3,000 people in Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North constituency, the highest number of all 73 in the capital at that stage. As this article goes live, the national total of signatories has exceeded 800,000.
Mayor’s Question Time proceedings were preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the recent terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which claimed the lives of 50 people.