LONDON — London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Wednesday said he is “optimistic about London’s future” as Brexit negotiations get under way, but warned that “striking [a good Brexit] deal will be extraordinarily complicated and difficult.”
The government will on Wednesday lunchtime deliver a letter to the European Commission officially triggering Article 50, which begins the two-year period for Britain to negotiate its exit from the European Union.
Labour Mayor Khan, who supported remain, is this week visiting European leaders and capitals to emphasise London’s close economic and social ties to Europe. In a statement on Wednesday morning, he says: “My conversations with European and EU leaders this week have left me in no doubt that there is a good Brexit deal to be done if the Government approaches it in the right way — a deal that is in the best interests of London, Britain and the EU.”
However, he says that striking a good deal will be incredibly challenging and calls for negotiators to “act in good faith and agree a deal that works for everyone.”
The EU’s leaked negotiating mandate for Brexit suggests that it will approach talks in the spirit of “cooperation in good faith,” but many on the EU side are reportedly worried that Britain will not reciprocate and are worried about Brexit Minister David Davis’ reputation as a “street fighter.”
Khan calls for May to give EU citizens living in the UK a “cast-iron guarantee that they can stay here after Brexit” as a “a powerful symbol of goodwill” at the beginning of negotiations.
Khan also calls for negotiators from both sides to make securing an interim or transition deal their “first priority” as this will “reduce economic uncertainty on both sides of the Channel while the negotiations unfold.”
A transition agreement is seen as particularly important for London’s financial services economy. Britain is expected to lose the right to sell goods and services across the EU with a UK licence in Brexit talks and finance firms are worried about a “cliff edge” exit — overnight they would lose huge chunks of business as entire markets fall away from them. A gradual transition from EU membership to non-membership would help ease this painful process.
Here is Khan’s full statement, posted on Facebook on Wednesday morning:
“The Prime Minister is today triggering a process that will last at least two years and have a profound impact on London, Britain and Europe’s future.
“There could not be more at stake in these negotiations — from our economic prosperity and standard of living, to our security, air quality and workers’ rights.
“I didn’t vote for Brexit, but I am optimistic about London’s future. My conversations with European and EU leaders this week have left me in no doubt that there is a good Brexit deal to be done if the Government approaches it in the right way — a deal that is in the best interests of London, Britain and the EU.
“However, striking this deal will be extraordinarily complicated and difficult — and like all Londoners, I am hopeful that the negotiators will act in good faith and agree a deal that works for everyone.
“I’m pleased that the Prime Minister has today recognised the importance of reassuring EU citizens living in Britain who are understandably extremely concerned about their future. Today Theresa May has a huge opportunity to give them a cast-iron guarantee that they can stay here after Brexit as she triggers Article 50. This would start negotiations with a powerful symbol of goodwill — and both sides should give this assurance today.
“I’m urging both sets of negotiators to make securing an interim deal their first priority — particularly for financial services. This will reduce economic uncertainty on both sides of the Channel while the negotiations unfold.
“During this period I will continue to make the case for what Londoners need from the Brexit negotiations — and I’ll stand up for Britain’s business community and their ability to create jobs and prosperity.
“I’ll work closely with the Government whenever possible — but I won’t be afraid to speak out when I believe their approach is putting our economy at risk — Londoners would expect nothing less.”
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