By Gordon Innes, Chief Executive Officer, London & Partners.
Last week London played host to Europe’s largest festival of technology. More than 40,000 people came to the capital for London Technology Week to explore our booming tech sector, including 21 overseas delegations looking to London as a place to invest. Then, at the end of the week, the UK voted to leave the EU.
Following such a momentous week I feel it’s time to review the facts, to reflect on some of the challenges that lie ahead and assess how, together, we can forge new opportunities for the future.
First, a few truths. London is, and will always be, a truly global trading city, a city which has constantly looked outward to trade and engage with the entire world.
The result is that more international companies have come to London than to any other city and more than half of international investors have cited London as the leading European city for Foreign Direct Investment.
London is home to more than 250 international banks. In fact, there are more American banks based in London than there are in New York and there are more banking head offices in London than anywhere else in the World.
Forty per cent of the world’s top companies have HQ operations in London and we are Europe’s leading city for patent registrations in healthcare, wireless technology, video games, multimedia and software.
London is also the most welcoming city I know. Record numbers of visitors come here to sample our rich heritage and culture, making London one of the most visited cities on earth. Without them, London would be billions of pounds a year worse off – money that can’t then be reinvested for the benefit of all in London.
But the true dynamism of London comes from the millions of international workers who have come here from overseas to live and work, and call London home. There are almost one million Europeans living and working here, bringing enormous economic benefit to the city and enriching the cultural life of London. And regardless of the outcome of the referendum vote, they will continue do so.
Over recent days I’ve heard first hand from some of London’s foreign-born entrepreneurs and residents about how they feel ‘battered and bruised’ by the result of our referendum. They’ve begun to question whether or not London is really where they want to be.
I am immensely proud to work for this great city and I stand fully alongside the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, when he says that we are committed to working ever more closely to build stronger alliances between cities across Europe and around the world.
It is entirely possible that, emboldened by a mandate from the British people, a new UK Prime Minister can negotiate favourable terms for a future trading relationship with the EU and easy movement of tourists and skilled labour. It is entirely possible, too, that new trading relationships can be forged with economies that will be the powerhouses of world trade 20, 30, 40 years from now – which will open up new opportunities.
London’s economic success is built on hundreds of years of international businesses, investors and skilled workers coming here to be part of the most open and dynamic city economy in the world. None of that changed last Friday, none of that will change over the next two years and all of the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU are open for negotiation.
In short, now is the time to focus on securing the best possible opportunities for London and the millions of people who would seek to make it their home. #Londonisopen