Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Guildhall’

The City in Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 9th September, 2013

Vince CableVicky PryceGisela Stuart 1Jesse NormanA referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union isn’t expected until 2017, and may not happen then, but the arguments for both In and Out are getting more insistent. This evening, the magnificent Great Hall at the Guildhall in the City of London hosted a capacity crowd to hear a debate on the question “The City in Europe: Will the Square Mile Prosper if Britain Leaves the EU?”, organised by the Evening Standard newspaper and moderated by Jon Sopel of the BBC. The Lord Mayor of London, Roger Gifford, left no doubts as to where his sympathies lay when in his introductory remarks he stressed London’s importance as a centre for financial and other services and how some banks and firms in the City would pack up and leave if the UK withdrew from the EU. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, pursued the same theme in one of the most pro-EU speeches I have heard him make; unlike many Liberal Democrats Vince does not have a particularly strong emotional attachment to anywhere on the continent; if any one country is close to his heart it is India. Nonetheless, he argued that EU membership is crucial for Britain’s economy and jobs. The UK is the third largest recipient of direct foreign investment (after China and the USA) and many of those investments are linked to Britain’s position in the EU. Gisela Stuart is unusual in being a Labour Eurosceptic (and MP for Birmingham Edgbaston), despite being born in what was then West Germany; but her line was indeed Eurosceptic rather than Europhobe. She felt that if some powers were repatriated (as David Cameron hopes) and the Eurozone’s economy picked up well then the British public might be likely to vote to stay in the EU. Jesse Norman, the Conservative MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire (just sacked by David Cameron for voting against the recent Government motion on Syria) took a different approach, answering the question of the debate directly by asserting that the City was strong enough to withstand the effects of Britain joining the EU. He was coy about whether he would vote Out now, but mildly optimistic that the Government will win some concessions in a renegotiation. Vicky Pryce, the Greek economist (and LibDem member) also thought that there might be some repatriation of powers, mainly because several other member states were thinking along similar lines. But she, of course, believes strongly Britain should stay a member. Had I had the opportunity to put a question to the panel, I would have reminded them of Herman Van Rompuy’s remark about people not winning arguments in a meeting if they have their coat on and one hand on the door — and I would have asked them whether the City might not benefit if David Cameron heeded that advice.

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Lord Mayor of London’s Warning to Euro-sceptic Tories

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 17th November, 2009

‘Scepticism about Europe — or even disengagement — is yesterday’s game,’ the Lord Mayor of London declared last night at his banquet speech at the Guildhall in the heart of the City of London, the financial district. ‘We need to be at the table shaping the future or others will,’ he added. His remarks, which were a scarcely veiled attack on David Cameron’s Conservatives and their persistent Euro-scepticism, was warmly applauded by the City figures present, many of whom would normally be natural Tories, but who are horrified at the way an incoming Conservative government might further distance Britain from the European mainstream. That could have a catastrophic effect on jobs and investment in London, as well as giving a boost to rival financial and business centres on the continent. Labour was not spared some of the Lord Mayor’s advice either, as he urged the Goverment to engage more enthusiastically with Brussels, to stop European rivals from choking off the City. But with the wind apparently blowing into the Tories’ sails in the run-up to the general election, we can be sure that it will be David Cameron’s office that will get more heavily lobbied by the City. And quite right too!

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