London has long been one of the world’s leading financial and professional services centres. One of the reasons for the success of the Square Mile has been its ability to attract people from all over the globe to live and work here. There are clear benefits of attracting European and international talent to our capital, such as filling the skills gap, contributing to our national economy, and enabling firms to operate across borders. But, as Catherine McGuinness – policy chairman of the City of London Corporation – puts it: “the real advantage of a diverse workforce is more subtle; a varied mix of nationalities serves to deepen society’s knowledge of different cultures and ways of living”.
Earlier this week, the City of London Corporation published ONS data which revealed how vital European workers are to the Square Mile. With 18 per cent of the City’s entire workforce coming from parts of Europe – the highest figure ever recorded. Which means around one in every five people working in the City come from the European Economic Area.
This date emphasizes the importance of European workers to the City, and the need for a clear post-Brexit immigration policy. Apart from some leaked documents in December we have very little information on the position of EU nationals post Brexit. The Government has postponed the publication of a long due Immigration White Paper, and is not expected to set out what kind of immigration system businesses and people can expect until much later this the year.
Home Office data also published this week showed the UK reached the official non-EU immigration limit two months in a row since December contributing to NHS difficulty in recruiting doctors oversea and raising serious questions about the promise of a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’.
In this context the Prime Minister’s comments about limiting rights of EU citizens who arrive during the transition period – apart from being unacceptable for EU27 countries – is sending out completely the wrong messages. Not the best way to start a “deep and special” partnership or make EU citizens feel welcome.
Immigration is a difficult political (and practical) issue to address, but as the City of London Corporation’s policy chairman rightly says: “securing a good trade deal without a sound immigration policy would be a hollow victory, so it’s vital this is addressed sooner rather than later.”
Indeed we need to show London is open for business. And we need to show it now. Key priorities are:
- Legally binding agreement on protecting the rights of millions of EU27 and UK citizens living and working in UK and on the continent now;
- Provide clarity for EU27 and UK citizens arriving during the transition period protecting all their rights to settle;
- Present a clear vision on what kind of immigration system we need to make a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ enabling foreign investment, talent and jobs, a reality.
As a Councillor representing an area which is the home of several international businesses I will continue to make a strong case for an open and global Britain, whilst protecting our borders, with a sensible immigration system and full recognition of the rights of EU nationals living and working in the UK and Brits living and working in the EU – now, during transition and in the future.