Brexit (Supplementary) [9]

Session date: 
January 17, 2019
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Mr Mayor, the Prime Minister and the Government may have survived a parliamentary confidence vote, but can Londoners have confidence in our Government’s ability to deliver a good outcome for our city over Brexit?


Supplementary To: 


Brexit (Supplementary) [9]

Brexit (Supplementary) [9]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Since Theresa May was chosen to be the Leader of the Conservative Party and has been our Prime Minister, her one focus has been the Brexit deal at the expense of the NHS, schooling, the environment, policing.  Think of all the other things that matter to our country and our city.  All of those have been neglected.


You can sort of understand that.  If Brexit is so important, it is important that our Prime Minister spends time doing this.  She has a Cabinet that can deal with the other issues.  The one issue she has been focused on has been rejected in record numbers by fellow parliamentarians.  The scale of that defeat - 230 - is astonishing.  Only 202 MPs supported it and nearly all of them are on the Government payroll.  One hundred and eighteen Conservative MPs voted against it.  She united Parliament in ways not done for a long time.


It is important to reflect on that.  That is why it is astonishing that she is carrying on as if nothing has happened.  My disappointment with the vote yesterday was with how Conservative MPs put their national party interest before the Government’s interest.


I will say this.  If you had been acting in the way she has been behaving for the last two and a half years, in a parochial, tribal manner, why should a member of any other party now in good faith work with you to do a deal?  If after two and a half years these are the fruits of her labour, why do we think in 65 or 70 days she will be able to agree a better deal with parliamentarians and then persuade the EU to accept that?  It is a fantasy world.  It is the world of unicorns.  That is why the sensible thing to do is withdraw Article 50 to give us time to decide what to do going forward.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.  Are you concerned that far from having the benefits and opportunities that some Members of this Assembly have outlined this morning, a no-deal Brexit by this Government is risking our reputation overseas and making the UK a laughing stock in Europe, which could potentially damage London and the livelihoods of people living in London?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  What I would say to the Assembly is that if they have some time, spend some time looking at some of the international press yesterday.  Look at some of the things our allies were saying yesterday not just about our Prime Minister but by extension about our country.  I know Assembly Member Bailey thinks that this is a fantastic opportunity.  I think it is a catastrophe.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Being viewed as a basket case clearly is not good for London.  Are you concerned that that is what people think of the UK as a whole?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I met yesterday during my Business Advisory Board some members with some of their businesses overseas and some of their offices overseas.  Some of the stories they were telling me anecdotally about the perception of us in the last few days were not great.


That is why it is so important for all of us to promote our city because people do look at what is happening in the media.  If you are somebody sitting in Mumbai or New York or Singapore or Sydney thinking about investment opportunities, thinking about where to study, thinking about the sorts of issues that matter to our city, and you see the way things are being conducted and what is coming from Westminster, it does have an impact.  That is why we in City Hall take seriously our role to promote our city.


Fiona Twycross AM:  Do you think the main issue is that other people are not stepping forward to replace the current Prime Minister with the damage it could potentially do to London because they think that the problem is unsolvable?  We are never going to move this on if people do not accept that we are in a situation we just cannot simply get out of at the moment.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  We will be a lot clearer on the position on Monday when we know what the Prime Minister brings back in relation to plan B.  We will be a lot clearer when we see what amendments have been put down from parliamentarians.


However, the bad news is that unless there is a withdrawal of Article 50, I am extremely worried about what happens over the next few weeks and the consequences not simply for Theresa May and the Conservative Party but for our city and our country for years and decades to come.  The EU is willing to allow us to extend or withdraw.  The European Court of Justice has been quite clear in relation to the judgment late last year [2018].  I am unclear why the Prime Minister is being so dogmatic and stubborn about withdrawing or extending Article 50.  There is no reason at all why she cannot take the pressure off and then have a cool, calm discussion.  It cannot just be about Theresa May’s job and the Conservative Party.  It has to be about our country and the jobs that will be lost as a consequence of a bad Brexit deal.