Fri, Jan 27, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Post-Brexit London’s fate as cultural and financial center

The UK capital perhaps felt the greatest shock when Britain voted to leave the EU. Will the impending split really be ‘economic self-sabotage’ for London, or will the city’s status as a cultural and business leader remain intact?

By Tom Campbell  /  The Guardian

For some years now, leading urban thinkers such as Benjamin Barber, David Adam and Saskia Sassen have been anticipating growing political tensions as world cities grow in economic and cultural importance and find themselves constrained within nation states, increasingly at odds with the more conservative policies of central governments. The relationship between London and the UK in the aftermath of Brexit is a prime example, and in the US, President Donald Trump is already facing fervent opposition from the largest cities and their leaders.

In the weeks following the referendum, a petition demanding that London declares independence from the UK and remains in the EU received almost 200,000 signatures. While never a serious proposition, it is indicative of the febrile political climate: Sadiq Khan has led a “London is Open” campaign and new policy ideas such as a “London visa,” in which EU nationals are allowed to live and work exclusively in the capital are gaining traction.

The Centre for London’s Richard Brown agrees that a “regionalized immigration solution” is needed for the capital, while also insisting that “London government needs more powers over skills, planning and the tax system.”

However, with a national government that has made reducing immigration a priority, such powers are unlikely to be ceded easily.

Arguments about the economic dominance of London and its relationship with the rest of the country are almost as old as Britain itself, but they have been hugely exacerbated by the referendum. If last year was the year which saw small town conservatism victorious and a resurgence in nationalism, then forthcoming ones are likely to bring a heightened sense of civic identity, and a liberal fight back.

Greater political conflict seems inevitable, and London’s status as the commercial and cultural capital of Europe will largely depend on the outcome.

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