The facts are clear: London is better off In

It’s no good for the Leave side to dismiss the evidence with a call to be brave.

Amid all of the noise around the EU referendum, what are often missing are facts. Opinions abound but far too few are referenced, explained or backed up by hard stats.

In a debate about the future direction of our country, that cannot be allowed to stand. You get some like Boris Johnson who think this debate can be won by opinion and optimism alone, it can’t. We need facts, figures and thought-out arguments, not blind supposition.

For London, the EU is incredibly important for our economic growth. In 2014 London exported £12.3 billion of goods to the EU (nearly 43 per cent of all London’s exports of goods) in the same year we imported £27.6 billion of products from the EU (40.4 per cent of all the capital’s imported goods). This isn’t a passing relationship, the UK and EU are economically intertwined. Putting up a barrier between us and the biggest free market on the planet could be devastating.

London trade in goods

If the Prime Minister has proven anything over the past year, it’s that getting exactly what you want from negotiations with Brussels is incredibly hard, so it’s difficult to understand the optimism of those who say a free trade deal outside the EU is a sure thing. Whilst we would undoubtedly continue to trade with the continent, the loss of the preferential treatment which comes with EU membership would bring a significant cost to UK businesses.

When you look at employment, the situation is equally worrying. According to research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), 542,000 jobs in London were associated with the EU in 2011. Whilst these jobs would not be guaranteed to go post-Brexit, they would be far less secure if our major trading partner was less favourably accessible.

Indeed for London’s financial sector the impact could be significant. HSBC has already said that ‘if Britain were to vote to leave, it could have a meaningful impact.’ The company, which recently announced it would remain head quartered in London for the significant future, said that around 1,000 jobs would head over the Channel in the event of an out vote.

You can tell a lot from the fact that eighty of the UK’s top hundred companies are reportedly already poised to support continued membership of the EU.

It’s clear why businesses feel this way. Membership of the EU provides access to over 500m people who make up the world’s largest single market and largest economy by GDP. In 2014, on both the World Bank’s commonly-used measures of comparing GDP internationally, the EU beat both the US and China in terms of economic output.

GDP at market prices

An economically strong London means a successful UK with benefits and increased tax receipts being invested across the country. Keeping London part of this economic community, and it thus remaining attractive and competitive is vital.

In 2014, a report from consultancy Deloitte looking at London’s business success found that of the world’s largest 250 companies:

  • 40 per cent had their European headquarters in London
  • 60 per cent of the top non-European companies with an HQ in Europe chose London.

As a result, they found that London is Europe’s leading centre for high-skill employment. In the City of London financial district the impact is even starker. TheCityUK summed it up in a recent report:

“The links between financial markets in the UK and EU are extensive, and are fundamental to the prosperity of the whole region. London is Europe’s financial centre. In the same way that the US draws strength from having New York at its financial heart, so the Member States across the EU are stronger by having London, one of only a handful of truly global cities, as the hub.”

Of course the EU needs reform and improvement, particularly in terms of its democratic aloofness, but blanket exit isn’t the answer. For all the frustrations of the EU, its benefits, particularly economic, vastly outweigh them.

It’s no good for the other side of dismiss these facts with a call to be brave. Particularly as it’s not those in the political classes arguing about concepts of sovereignty who will lose out if the UK leaves the EU.

However you look at it London, and the rest of the UK, would be diminished by leaving the wider European community.

It’s time for a debate based on facts, not vilification and on the facts, it’s clear to me, the UK is better off in.

Len Duvall AM is Labour’s Leader on the London Assembly

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8 Responses to “The facts are clear: London is better off In”

  1. DWP

    “London is better off in” and what about the rest of this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

    Pull your London centric goggles off

  2. Julian

    Len Duvall is a London Assembly Member – it’s his job to be London-centric!

    But he makes the case quite clearly in his closing lines – the UK as a whole is better off in.

  3. Richard MacKinnon

    Its articles like this that show up Labour’s total lack of understanding of the magnitude of the decision of this referendum.
    ” The facts are clear: London is better off In”.
    First of all the facts are not clear. Second, it may be that there are jobs in London that depend on EU membership but what about rUK.
    Labour List has an article this morning by Alan Johnson “50,000 apprenticeships at risk due to Brexit”. Maybe, but the £55 million per day UK contribution to EU?
    Once again we see Labour watching events from the sidelines with nothing to offer but Project Fear II.

  4. Eric

    It’s this bit that clinches it for me:

    “In 2014, a report from consultancy Deloitte looking at London’s business success found that of the world’s largest 250 companies:

    40 per cent had their European headquarters in London
    60 per cent of the top non-European companies with an HQ in Europe chose London.”

    If you were a CEO of a North American or Far Eastern company that wanted to expand into Europe, would you set up your European headquarters in a country just outside Europe or would you do the obvious thing and set up your business inside Europe? If you were CEO of a company that had two manufacturing sites in Europe, one in the UK and one in Italy both serving the European market, which one would you close first if business conditions compelled you to make cut backs?

  5. Robert Petulengro

    Len, I think you are making two assumptions neither of which is true.

    The first is that nobody (in their right mind) is suggesting a clean break on 24th June if the LEAVE vote wins. At the very soonest, we can apply for Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, as Mr Cameron so rightly said in parliament, and that will take 2 years. Switzerland took 16 years to come to an arrangement. Any form of business will have a lot of time to come to terms with any new relationship (And do not forget the EU is changing too into a Federal Union. So that is an option which you have not factored in.)

    Secondly we are already in the EEA. Nobody is suggesting we leave that. We can also apply for membership of EFTA during the negotiation process. Spinelli actually offers us Associate Membership which Boris Johnson mentioned yesterday. Trade and banking will be unaffected during the negotiations. On the other hand, business will be much freer to make trading and banking arrangements with the rest of the world than is the case at the moment.

    We have thought all this out. What is sad is that you haven’t done the homework.

  6. David Davies

    The `Only Place That Matters’ is better off, whatever happens!

  7. Jimmy Glesga

    The only people better off are the EU beuraucracy and idle politicians in the EU parliament. We need to get out and the rest will follow. All we need is fair trade.

  8. Robert Jones

    Too easy to be “brave” with other people’s jobs. I voted against joining the EU all those years ago, but the country voted to join and that should have been that – the suggestion is the EU has changed radically in the meantime; well, it has changed: but its direction was always perfectly clear. Outside the EU, the influence of this now minor power will fade into obscurity — if Scotland were then to secede, we should seem all the smaller and less important. And no major company would base its HQ or centre of operations here – not at least unless we embraced the tax-free regulatory system of a banana republic. Business would be “much freer to make trading arrangements with the rest of the world outside the E”, someone says above. The rest of what world? The EU seeks to grow, and has grown – with whom, other than the US, China, Russia, are we to make trading arrangements? How many of those countries outside the EU are going to want the bother of renegotiating trade agreements they had thought settled with the EU? And what, other than financial services made possible through our present association with the EU, are we going to trade IN? We don’t make anything any more!

    “It’s better out than in” generally refers to some digestive upset – it’s not much use as an economic policy.

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