It is rather worrying to read the comments made by London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan calling for delays to the implementation of the EU referendum result.
What is worrying, apart from the obvious point that over 40% of Londoners voted to leave the EU – that’s 1.4 million, many more than those who voted for him to be Mayor in May – is his abject failure to understand political realities both here and abroad.
For those of us who have always believed that London’s position in the world is based upon its unique qualities and people the situation is relatively simple, London’s success was never reliant on the UK’s membership of a defunct customs union.
We may be grateful that he now admits that he lost the argument over Brexit, but what he cannot be allowed to do is to lose the future by his rejection of the opportunities now granted to us.
Khan has called for the UK to wait until after the German and French elections next year. Which shows he fails to grasp the importance of moving quickly.
The French and German elections being held next year give us a huge opportunity to get the best possible deal for the UK, but to do so we need to act before those elections rather than after them. It is very simple.
In France and Germany, the two countries that are most important in the functioning, and of course the direction of the European Union will be in a state of some uncertainty which is the norm during contested elections.
What Mr Khan seems to forget is that the U.K. is Germany’s most profitable export market. Germany’s trade surplus with us last year was with the U.K. came in at EUR51 billion (£43.5 billion), a full 34% of the German surplus with the EU.
A surplus 42% percent higher than their trade surplus with France, its largest European trade partner.
With its EUR 89.3 billion (£76 billion) worth of exports to the U.K. last year, we are their third-largest export market.
In the case of France they exported EUR35 billion (£30.7 buillion) to us last year whilst importing EUR 25 billion £21 billion) leaving them with a EUR 10 billion surplus.
The leading political parties and figures will be casting out for votes and the electorates will be holding them to account.
We already know that the major manufacturers and the big unions in both countries are already lobbying their Governments not to act in spite as it is Germany and France who will lose out, not the UK, and during their election campaigns both country’s politicians will be forced to make guarantees to maintain and enhance trade with the UK.
This is, though Mr Khan doesn’t seem to understand the basic politics a very strong negotiating hand.
The French and German electorates will be demanding access to British and particularly London markets from their politicians.
If we wait until they have passed our negotiating leverage will be much reduced as once elected the German and French Government will be able to safely ignore those voices.
Khan has said he wants to be a mayor ‘for all Londoners’ but instead he has lined up with the whining Remainers and risks holding London back from enjoying the huge opportunities now open to the UK.
In insisting on a brand of London exceptionalism he risks cutting it off from the rest of the country at a time when the capital needs to become more integrated, not less.
London is a great and global city, but it needs to be lead by somebody who embraces change and opportunity, rather than hide behind fear and inertia.
The author is the leader of the UKIP group on the London Assembly