Brexit and London Liberal Democrats
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 9th April, 2017
At very short notice yesterday I shared a platform at the London Liberal Democrats spring conference with London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, to discuss where things are with Brexit. I am the Party’s London Brexit spokesperson, and therefore part of the national Brexit team, headed by Lord (Dick) Newby, and Caroline is part of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s working party on the topic. The big problem is, of course, that no-one knows exactly what Brexit will entail, including, it would appear, the government. I stressed how important it is that Britain stays within the single market, if possible, though Theresa May seems to believe that won’t happen; how she then expects Britain to enjoy the same trading relationship with the EU27 as now after Brexit God only knows. Passporting rights for the City of London are absolutely crucial if the City is to retain its pre-eminent position; already some banks are making provisions to move at least part of their operations elsewhere in case there is a fundamental change in the situation. Both Caroline and I pointed out that losing highly-paid banking and financial sector workers from London will have an adverse effect on employment in downstream service industries, which are already being threatened by staff shortages as EU nationals leave or are not being recruited — a situation that is starting to hit the NHS as well.
In the afternoon I moderated a session with German, French and Irish speakers about the situation of EU citizens living in London. There was testimony from the audience about how unsettling the current uncertainty about their status is, with some people lying awake at night, imaging people hammering on the door to deport them, or simply wondering whether they should pack up and leave. Many thousands of EU citizens have joined the Liberal Democrats since last June’s EU Referendum because we are the only national party which is campaigning wholeheartedly for their rights, along with those of British citizens in the rest of the EU. As long as they are registered, all can vote in both local and regional elections and some are intending to stand as candidates in London in 2018. Far from just waiting in a corner to see if the worst is going to happen many are willing and able to go out and fight for our European values in a city which overall voted heavily to Remain in the EU.