Sadiq Khan: It’s not in the EU’s interest to ‘punish’ Britain

28 March 2017
  • Mayor declares he is proud to call himself a European despite Brexit

  • Bad Brexit deal would hurt both UK and EU

  • Sadiq calls for moment’s silence for victims of Westminster terrorist attacks

The Mayor of London today (Tuesday 28 March) used a keynote speech in Brussels to declare that it is not in the European Union’s best interest to ‘punish’ Britain through the Brexit negotiations.

Sadiq Khan said he was ‘proud’ to call himself a European and to know that Britain had been part of the EU for 44 years. He said: “The EU stands as a symbol for how different people – and different nations – are stronger together than they are apart.”
At a conference in Brussels staged by Politico, he said that the EU had transformed Europe’s economy for the better, regenerated some of the poorest communities on the continent, enhanced workers’ rights, protected consumers and promoted peace. He also amplified his call for the 3.3million European citizens (a million of whom are Londoners) who currently live in Britain to be given a ‘cast-iron guarantee’ of their right to remain in the UK post-Brexit.
At the start of his speech he called for a moment’s silence for the victims of last week’s horrific attack - PC Keith Palmer, Aysha Frade, Kurt Cochran, Leslie Rhodes - and all victims of terrorism across Europe.
He said: “The people of Brussels know all too well what it’s like to suffer from senseless terrorism.  And I know we share a steely determination to never allow these terrorists to succeed. London, Brussels and Europe will never be cowed by terrorism.”
In the main body of his speech, the day before Theresa May is expected to trigger Article 50, officially beginning the Brexit process, the Mayor called on European leaders to act with ‘confidence’ and not to ‘punish’ Britain for Brexit.
He added: “Now is the time to be confident in the European Union. And to act with confidence. There’s no need – as some have suggested - for the EU to send a message – or to instil fear – by punishing the UK. Because a proud, optimistic and confident institution does not secure its future through fear.”
Following his speech, Sadiq was due to hold high-level meetings with several senior politicians including the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, and the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.
The Mayor  warned that a bad Brexit deal would be bad for the EU as well as Britain, as it would cut Europe off from its only truly global financial centre and risk businesses leaving Europe altogether to head for New York, Singapore or Hong Kong. This would inevitably disrupt the supply chains of major industries in Europe and would be a lose-lose situation for jobs, growth and living standards across the EU.
Sadiq Khan said his message to European citizens across the continent was to tell their leaders to ensure that Brexit negotiations are conducted in the best interests of their family’s future, the future of their country and the values that the EU was founded on.
He said: “The truth is that London will always remain a key partner for Brussels and every European nation long after Brexit is resolved.
“My city is not only the beating heart of Britain’s economy, but the single most important organ for growth across Europe. I say this with friendship and all due respect – but a bad Brexit deal that hurts London would hurt the European Union too.”
The Mayor was giving the keynote speech to the Politico event, which was attended by senior political and business representatives at the Concert Noble in Brussels. He told those attending ‘The New European Order’ event that he was there as an ambassador for London, but also as a friend, a colleague and a proud European.
Sadiq said he came with three key messages:

  • First –  that London will always remain open to Europe and the EU. His London Is Open campaign aims to prove beyond any doubt that London remains welcoming, united, outward-looking and open for business.
  • Second – to send a direct message to EU citizens across the continent that all sides need to enter the Brexit negotiations with a single united ambition: to see Britain and the whole of the EU continue to thrive and prosper.

  • Third  – to advise Theresa May and the British Government on how best to proceed over the next two years and beyond. Sadiq urged them to issue a vital gesture of goodwill by providing a cast-iron guarantee of the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK after Brexit.

In his speech the Mayor said: “I come here with a message of optimism and hope during gloomy times. Because I’m optimistic about London’s future and our future working together.”
He went on to tell the audience of his belief that nations on every continent still look to Europe with admiration, guidance and leadership on major global issues. He added: “The EU has been criticised in recent times, with increasing calls for major reform.  But we mustn’t forget the extent to which it’s been a force for good in the world. How much it’s achieved and how it’s transformed the face of Europe. The EU stands as a symbol for how different people – and different nations – are stronger together than they are apart.”
The Mayor then turned to the challenges facing the future of the EU including the rise of narrow populist politics, the challenge of ensuring all citizens share in the benefits of globalisation and standing strong in the face of common enemies.
But Sadiq’s analysis is one of optimism for the EU and for London. He told his audience that he was confident the European Union would survive long after Brexit and the tests it now faces, and that the EU will continue to benefit millions of Europeans and advance progress just as it has for the last six decades.
Sadiq said: “I’m optimistic that London, the UK and the EU have bright futures ahead of us. And that the historic bonds we’ve established over many years can – and will – endure. The UK might be leaving the union, but in London we’ll always consider ourselves part of the European family.
“At this turning point in European history – it’s time for us to be audacious and bold with our approach to Brexit. That means putting aside the animosity, differences and anger that many expect, and working together to find a solution that brings continued fortune and prosperity to us all.”
The Mayor used his speech to send a direct message to Theresa May and her Government about the 3.3 million EU citizens who live across Britain – around one million in London alone – who make a huge contribution to the UK economy, culture and society. He said he had always been clear that every single EU citizen in London is a Londoner and they are – and always will be – welcome in the capital. But said it was crucial that the British Government now does the same.
The Mayor said: “As we start the Brexit negotiations, it would be a perfect gesture of goodwill – and proof that we still have a common interest as a continent - to provide a cast-iron guarantee of their right to remain in the UK. Of course – I urge the EU to do the same for British citizens living elsewhere in the EU.
“But I call on the British Government to act now even if this is not the case. Because we’re talking about people’s lives and families - husbands, wives and children. And that’s too important for us to use as a bargaining chip.”

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