Sadiq Khan needs to get back to his day job

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Sadiq Khan needs to get back to his day job

The Mayor’s unwarranted forays into Brexit are a disservice to Londoners, whose city he should be promoting not prophesying doom over, writes Peter Lyon

As Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s involvement in Brexit policy should be to assist London’s businesses, especially those in financial services, in getting the best out of our leaving the EU. However, Khan seems intent on using his position as a platform to pontificate about the dangers of Brexit, and to continue spreading the Project Fear lies. This is part of his wider strategy to force Britain into staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union, which would prevent a real Brexit.

Khan recently commissioned impact assessments to study the effect of Brexit on the economy. This was a clearly partisan move, in response to the debate around the publication of impact assessments by the Department for Exiting the EU. National studies are outside Khan’s remit as Mayor of London. Instead of treading on the Brexit Secretary, David Davis’s toes, he should leave national issues to the national Government and get on with sorting out all the problems in London.

Davis has argued to the Brexit Select Committee, impact assessments (which have a specific definition in Whitehall terminology), are not useful in the expansive policy area of Brexit. Instead, his Department undertook around 50 sectoral analyses, using quantitative and qualitative research, which have already been made available to MPs.

The supposedly independent experts employed by Khan (with taxpayers’ money) to carry out these impact assessments, are an economics consultancy called Cambridge Econometrics (CE). One of its Directors is Richard Murphy, a prominent Remoaner who has called Leave campaigners “intellectually bankrupt”! CE was one of the cacophony of mainstream economic researchers who predicted a Leave vote would damage the economy – which has clearly, so far, proved to be utterly false. The Pound has returned to pre-Brexit levels and the British economy is experiencing substantial levels of growth and record levels of employment (though there has be a slight increase in London’s unemployment rate – something the Mayor should be focusing on).

It’s not surprising Sadiq Khan’s economic impact assessment of Brexit is exceedingly pessimistic if he relies on advice like this. In this impact assessment, CE claimed a No Deal Brexit would result in a loss of nearly half a million British jobs. Patrick Minford, Chairman of Economists for Free Trade, has been quick to describe these predictions as “ridiculously pessimistic”, pointing out his own studies “show the clear benefits of Britain making a swift, clean break from the EU”.

In addition, the Leave-supporting economist Gerard Lyons notes Khan’s report does not mention the benefits of Brexit: opportunities for regulatory reform, industrial strategy and returning control over policy areas like agriculture and fisheries from Brussels.

Curiously, none of the scenarios in the report actually consider the Government’s stated policy: a bespoke free trade agreement with the EU, after an implementation period of around 2 years. This is a ridiculous oversight and makes Khan’s report largely useless, given EU leaders, such as Michel Barnier, have recently hinted a bespoke deal is likely to be on the table. Barnier, however,  seems to have since changed his stance. Speaking at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid this week, Barnier warned Britain any deal which failed to preserve a level regulatory playing field would face “difficulties” in securing the ratification of national and regional parliaments – including his homeland of France. Up to 38 national and regional legislatures in the EU will hold a veto on any trade deal and any one of them has the power to block it, he said.

It seems the omission of a bespoke trade deal scenario is due to Khan’s attempt to create a twofold choice between Leaving the EU without a deal, and the only alternative of a ‘Brexit in name only’ – in which Britain stays inside the Single Market and Customs Union. Although Khan claims he is not trying to reverse Brexit, he has said he would only accept we are “probably” leaving the EU. Brexit voters will be justifiably suspicious there is any doubt in his mind about whether the EU Referendum result will be respected!

The Mayor’s arrogant interventions have sometimes veered into the ridiculous. After the Phase 1 part of the Brexit deal was agreed, Khan even suggested London could follow Northern Ireland in having a special status in alignment with the Single Market and Customs Union. This ludicrous proposal would presumably involve erecting some kind of a hard border around the M25! Where on earth does he get these ridiculous ideas from?

As Mayor of our capital city, Sadiq Khan should be ‘talking up’ London as a place to do business, and for businesses to relocate to after Brexit. When we Get Britain Out of the EU, financial services in the City of London will benefit hugely from new opportunities to trade around the world, and the freedom from excessive regulation from Brussels – bespoke opportunities for UK businesses as a whole. Khan’s Brexit scaremongering is against the national interest by frightening away potential businesses, and is nothing to do with his remit as London Mayor. His partisan behaviour, and his belief in continuing membership of the Single Market and Customs Union, will lead many voters to question where his true loyalties and ambitions lie. No doubt he is seeing his next career move is as Leader of the Labour Party. But judging by comments on our social media, the rest of the country – as well as London, would prefer to see the back of him!

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    Peter Lyon
    Peter Lyon is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics where he chaired the Hayek Society.
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