Why the City Must Take a Lead in Making the Case for Europe; A New Labour Government Would Reset Relations with the EU from Day One a Cause the Capital Should Support

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 12, 2015 | Go to article overview

Why the City Must Take a Lead in Making the Case for Europe; A New Labour Government Would Reset Relations with the EU from Day One a Cause the Capital Should Support


Byline: Douglas Alexander Shadow foreign secretary

THE general election in 2015 represents a fundamental choice for Londoners. At stake is the question of how we can best protect this city's global status while also promoting living standards across the capital.

Unlike the Conservatives, Labour is clear that protecting Britain's place in Europe will be crucial to answering that question, and that is why the next general election will be so important for Britain's place in Europe. So it is vital that Londoners, and London businesses, find their voice and speak up to make the case for Britain to play a leading role at the heart of a reformed EU. For London's business community to speak up for Britain's place in Europe is not about party political advantage, it is about recognising both where the country's and the capital's interest lie. It is about patriotic duty and good business sense.

None of us need convincing that London is one of the world's great cities. But as well as being a great global city, it is also a great European city. Part of its success is based on its networks economic, cultural and financial which span the globe but in many cases are deepest and strongest across the European continent.

We already know that millions of UK jobs rely on our EU membership but in London alone that figure is close to half a million. The City of London is Europe's main financial centre and London's capital market is a European asset that benefits the whole EU.

It is also true that the EU has a big role to play in setting financial regulation, and that the City will only remain the EU's global financial centre if we remain in the negotiating room, not in the waiting room, when crucial regulations are passed. It has been Britain's stated policy objective for the past 30 years to heavily influence decisions on EU financial regulation, evidenced by the current Government's desire to secure the financial services brief for the UK's new EU Commissioner, Lord Hill.

While Paris, Frankfurt and Milan will remain central for their European domestic economies, London has remained firmly located as the EU's global financial centre. As finance has taken off as a key industry of the global economy over the past 40 years, London has moved to pole position among European capitals.

That is why in 2014 London businesses began increasingly speaking out about how important EU membership is to them and their companies. People such as Lord Green, chairman of TheCityUK, have already said it is no longer good enough for the UK to "shout from the sidelines and treat Europe as something that does unwelcome things to us".

The biggest risk for the prosperity of London and Londoners is the prospect of EU exit. This won't just affect profit margins for big business, it will be household incomes and pounds in Londoners' pockets that take the hit too.

I spent last summer campaigning to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom. If the Conservatives come to power this May, by the summer we could find ourselves fighting a campaign to keep Britain in Europe where the very risk of exit would itself harm business confidence and investment. …

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