Lord Mayor finds reasons to be cheerful about post Brexit London

The financial centre's chief advocate says the City has come through crises before, but he warns that there is no room for complacency about the current one

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The Independent Online

Reasons to be cheerful about post-Brexit Britain? There aren’t very many but the Lord Mayor of London has a few. 

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Jeffery Mountevans - the chief cheerleader for the financial centre as distinct from plain old London Mayor Sadiq Kahn who runs the capital - says that while he’s not complacent, the City is resilient. 

The financial centre - and perhaps it is better described as a services centre - has a superlatively talented, international, outward looking, workforce. It has evolved and repeatedly re-invented itself throughout its long history and can do so again. 

As an example, the Lord Mayor points out that the number of people employed in banking has fallen sharply since the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and yet the number of people employed in the City as a whole has risen sharply. 

Moreover, the 414,000 people now employed in London’s glass and steel temples to Mammon are expected to be joined by well over 100,000 new colleagues by 2030. 

Brexiteers don’t much like numbers and facts, but they’ll probably lap those ones up, because they show that the City should manage just fine. 

But hold on just a second. Before you start thinking I’ve suddenly gone soft, having bashed Brexit ever since 37 per cent of the British electorate decided to take leave of their senses and listen to a pack of lies, I haven’t. 

London would be better off, just as the entire country would be better off, had the vote gone the other way. We are now in the midst of an unnecessary political and a developing economic crisis. 

The Lord Major says that it would be difficult to build anything like the City in Paris, or Frankfurt, even in the wake of Brexit. But it won’t stop them from trying and if the Government’s Brexiteers decide to cut out one of Britain's eyes to spite its face a second time by denying the financial sector access to the European single market, it will make their job a lot easier and London’s job very much harder. 

Then there is the ugly tide of xenophobia unleashed by the Brexit backing right. If you're bright, talented and European, would you want to come here and live in the middle of that? The Lord Mayor wants them to feel welcome and he's right. 

The nastiness that prevails in Britain isn't putting everyone off. It doesn't hurt that London backed remain and its financial centre is an international hub that should still attract some of the best and brightest from around the world. The sort of people who spend money earned in high paying jobs here, and who pay a lot of tax here, tax that subsidises the rest of the UK. 

I’ve long argued that the City has been over indulged by past administrations, and that the Government could and should have paid more attention to the economy in the rest of the UK, an argument that still holds despite the flailing attempts by former Chancellor George Osborne to create a “northern powerhouse”. 

That doesn't change the fact that the City brings in a lot of money, which the country badly needs, now more than ever. 

The Lord Mayor thinks that it can thrive, and he may be right. It has come through crises before, emerging stronger from the Great Fire of 1666, becoming a super port and then the biggest insurer of shipping when that declined, and then the world’s leading banking centre.

Its latest challenge is one of the biggest it has yet faced. How it will emerge frrom it still very much depends on this country’s political leadership getting a grip. 

The Lord Major is optimistic despite the ugly current reality. We just have to hope his sunny disposition isn’t clouded by it. Right now the weather forecasts are unsettled at best.