Brexit Question to the Mayor
Is the Government listening to London’s concerns about Brexit?
Andrew Dismore AM: With some of the immediate risks that are appearing, Mr Mayor, would you agree that part of the problem that has emerged from that leaked Government document is that EU nationals who are here already are starting to leave and that those who might have thought about coming to work in our public services such as the National Health Service (NHS) are not coming, creating a real vacancy problem, particularly in the NHS, for example? Would you also agree that one of the immediate risks is that the Brexit negotiations so far have been so shambolic on the part of the Government that it is clearly not listening to the messages coming back from the other 27 Member States and is putting its own party political management ahead of the country’s interests? There is a growing risk now that insufficient progress will have been made from the EU’s perspective – by next month it has to be done – that we will not even be able to start trade negotiations at the EU summit at the end of next month.
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): I am extremely concerned about whether the October deadline is going to be met now in relation to lack of progress made in negotiations. I have been speaking to employers and anecdotally they have told me that some experiences they have had is of Londoners whose countries of origin are in the EU are returning home. The explanation they give me is that they think that if they have no future here, they will be able to get back first to start building a future in their country of origin before others go back to the country of origin.
It is a huge source of concern for us as Londoners. We need these Londoners from the EU in construction, in social care, in hospitality, in the financial sector, in the tech sector, in the cultural sector and in the higher education sector. The idea that, even if we accelerate the job we have to skill up our youngsters to do these jobs as soon as possible they will still be able to fill the vacancies, is nonsense. I have seen no evidence that we will be able to fill the vacancies and the gaps left by EU citizens by homegrown talent.
Andrew Dismore AM: What can we do as Londoners to kick the Government’s backside to make sure that it gets on with some very clear messaging?
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): You were being very diplomatic when you said that this has been done for internal party management. That was you being kind. There are real sources of concern that many of us have that the policies of the Prime Minister and the Government are in the interests of the Conservative Party and keeping them together rather than the interests of London and our country. I am hoping that sensible people in the Conservative Party will put pressure on the leadership to recognise that there needs to be a big change and there needs to be some serious heavy lifting by our negotiating team – and by ‘our’ I mean the UK negotiating team – to make sure we get a good deal with the EU.