Dismore raises impact of Brexit on London’s economy

At today’s London Assembly Mayor’s Question Time on the GLA’s budget, Andrew Dismore AM, Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, raised the impact of Brexit on London’s economy, especially tourism and retail businesses.

Mr Dismore asked the Mayor: 

‘How will the budget deliver your objective of a thriving economy, open to the world, considering the chaos surrounding Brexit?

‘London has traditionally benefitted from tourism from other EU countries, yet even though the value of the pound has dropped substantially as against the Euro due to Brexit, London saw more than 750,000 fewer holiday and business visitors from European Union countries last year and  total spending by foreign visitors to London in the first nine months of the year fell by more than £1.3 billion, or 12 per cent, and over last  summer the fall was even  bigger at  19 per cent. It is clearly right to be concerned about this so how will you promote London to overseas visitors to combat the negative Brexit effect?

‘Brexit uncertainty is also weighing heavily on consumer confidence. Many major retail businesses have gone bust, London’s retailers have seen sales volumes fall by more than forecast and the British Retail Consortium have said retailers had their worst Christmas in a decade. Capital Economics said: “Unless a Brexit deal is signed soon, there is unlikely to be much of a rebound in the first three months of 2019”. How does your budget support struggling retail businesses to ensure their future economic success?’

The Mayor said that he was concerned about the consequences of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. The Resilience Forum has done work on it, but it impacts on business, housing programmes because of shortages of construction workers, and no sector is unaffected. We should not overlook the contribution from taxes and businesses, which pay for public services. The evidence is that 5/6 of tourists come for culture, so Conservative lobbying to cut our culture budgets would affect hotels, restaurants, all parts of our economy. Tourists don’t want an insular, inward looking mindset. The Mayor said he is working with SMEs and Business Improvement Districts on Brexit. He is aware of the internet taking retail business, and he is frustrated by Westminster City Council’s refusal to pedestrianise Oxford Street, ignoring the concerns of retailers. He is lobbying for the devolution of business rates, so that rather than increase them, he can listen to SMEs’ concerns during difficult times. The Government should withdraw Article 50, so we don’t sleep walk into Brexit.

After question time Mr Dismore added:

‘London saw more than 750,000 fewer visitors from European Union countries last year. ONS figures show a total of 7.69 million people from EU member states came to London for holidays or business trips in the first nine months of the year, down 9% on the record 8.44 million in the same period in 2017. The overall number of overseas visits to the capital fell almost one million, from 15.24 million to 14.22 million over the period.  Total spending by foreign visitors to London in the first nine months of the year fell by more than £1.3 billion, or 12 per cent, from £10.51 billion to £9.18 billion. Over the summer quarter the fall was bigger — a 19 per cent drop from £4.39 billion to £3.54 billion. London is in danger of losing its mantle as the number one destination to rivals such as Bangkok, Paris and Dubai if the trend continues.’