Brexit: London could keep freedom of movement for EU citizens if Lib Dems seize control of City Hall, party’s mayoral candidate says

Siobhan Benita says she will ensure the capital remains a European and global city after Brexit

Siobhan Benita: London could keep freedom of movement for EU citizens if Lib Dems seize control of City Hall

London could keep freedom of movement for EU citizens after Brexit if Liberal Democrats seize control of City Hall, the party’s mayoral candidate has said.

Siobhan Benita said that she would deem EU citizenship an automatic qualification for the right to live and work in the capital under the kind of Australian-style points system being proposed by ministers.

And she told the party’s annual conference in Bournemouth that she is set to meet MEPs and officials in Brussels later this month to discuss reciprocal rights for Londoners in the remaining EU.

Speaking to conference, she announced that a former adviser to current mayor Sadiq Khan, ex-police officer Leroy Logan, had defected from Labour to join her team. And she accused Mr Khan of “failing to get a grip on knife crime or toxic air”.

The former civil servant, who is the daughter of an Indian migrant and is married to a Frenchman, said: “Nothing can symbolise an open London more than retaining free movement with the EU.

“Our city needs leadership in defence of free movement and when I’m elected as the first Liberal Democrat mayor of London, it will get it. No ifs, no buts.

“As Mayor, I will keep freedom of movement in London and freedom of movement for Londoners in Europe. I will make sure we always have freedom of movement in our great city.”

She explained how she believes it will be possible to retain rights for EU migrants in the face of home office plans to restrict them only to those who qualify for “settled status”.

“The Government tells us it wants an Australian-style points-based immigration system. Under such systems, immigration powers can be devolved to regions, enabling them to nominate immigrants based on different characteristics.

“One qualifying characteristic for the right to work in London could be EU citizenship.”

She promised that if elected she would “do everything in my power to ensure that our capital remains European and global, Brexit or no Brexit”.

Ms Benita also announced she would pilot the decriminalisation of cannabis in London, adding: “If I am elected to City Hall, we’ll end the ‘war on drugs’ and instead wage war on gangs and drug lords.”

And she revealed she is considering rewards for restaurants which offer vegan options, as a Siobhan Benita is considering introducing incentives for restaurants to offer vegan options.

Siobhan Benita

Ms Benita is an outsider in the race for City Hall in May 2020, when she will face Mr Khan, Conservative Shaun Bailey and Green co-leader Sian Berry.

Liberal Democrats came in fourth with less than 5 per cent of first-preference votes in the 2012 and 2016 elections, though Ms Benita will hope that their strong anti-Brexit stance will help her in a city which voted overwhelmingly to Remain in the EU.

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