Article 50

MQT on 2019-05-16
Session date: 
May 16, 2019
Question By: 
Peter Whittle
Brexit Alliance Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


In the article published under your name in The Independent on 22 March 2019, you called for Article 50 to be revoked, stating: ‘It was possible for the prime minister to secure a Brexit deal that protected our jobs, economy and the rights of EU citizens in the UK while respecting the outcome of the referendum. Britain could have left the institutions of the European Union while remaining in both the customs union and the single market.’ This position is intellectually incoherent, because it champions the interests of big business over the hard-pressed consumer. Added to which, the EU’s customs union is a protectionist mechanism, which shields large businesses from overseas competition. Although many tariffs are low, this is not the case for sectors such as food, clothing, footwear and cars. As a result, prices for consumers are a lot higher than they should be. Companies have little incentive to invest in improving productivity (which in turn limits wage increases), whilst poorer countries can find themselves effectively frozen out of EU markets. Being in the customs union after we have left the EU would leave us in the same situation as Turkey – having to accept whatever tariffs the EU decide on, whilst having no say in trade negotiations. Even worse, when the EU strikes a future new trade deal with a third country, such as India or Argentina, we would be bound to accept zero tariffs on imports from that country, but with no obligation on them to drop tariffs on UK exports. On what basis have you concluded that staying in the customs union and the single market honours the decision of the British People to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016?


Answer for Article 50

Answer for Article 50

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chair, I am not sure if others have had the opportunity to read this question, but it must be a record for the longest question ever, certainly since I became Mayor.


The Prime Minister [The Rt Hon Theresa May MP] could have secured a Brexit deal that protected jobs, the economy and the rights of EU citizens in the UK while respecting the outcome of the referendum.  The Prime Minister could have done this by proposing that Britain left the institutions of the EU while remaining in both the Customs Union and the Single Market.  Continued Customs Union and Single Market membership is something businesses, business leaders, trade unions and many others have called for, and economic impact assessments, City Hall’s own as well as the Government’s, show that maintaining Customs Union and Single Market arrangements will minimise economic harm and avoid the creation of a hard border in Ireland.  Our independent economic assessment published last year [2018] showed that leaving the Single Market and Customs Union would result in nearly half a million fewer and nearly £50 billion less investment by 2030.


There is a disadvantage to staying in the Customs Union and Single Market if we leave the EU, which is that the likes of Norway or Turkey pay the EU to participate in these arrangements without having a say.  That is a less economically damaging outcome than remaining outside the Single Market and Customs Union.


Let me remind Members that there is no consensus even from pro‑Brexit advocates on this, either.  Though several Brexiteers indicated preferences for Single Market access and a Norway‑style solution before the referendum, it is clear that politicians have failed to agree a way forward on a Brexit deal.


That is why the best solution out of this mess is to give the British public a final say over Brexit.  My view is that instead of running down the clock yet again and then asking for a further extension, the Prime Minister should now put the national interest first and withdraw Article 50 so that we can take the prospect of no deal off the table completely.  This would allow the necessary breathing space to give the public the final say on Brexit.


Peter Whittle AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  I do apologise for the long question.  It was an equally long answer and so thank you.


One thing I would say, Mr Mayor, is on 22 June 2016 you said very clearly, “Out is out”, and that there will be no going back.  Then the following day we had an historic vote to indeed come out.  Do you not think, Mr Mayor, that in the two years since, culminating in you in an extraordinary way calling for Article 50 be revoked, your attitude and your pronouncements on this have actually fundamentally damaged the democratic culture in the country, which is what we are facing at the moment?  There is a real crisis of democracy at the moment.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No.


Peter Whittle AM:  You do not?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No.


Peter Whittle AM:  You really do not?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No.


Peter Whittle AM:  By calling for the revocation of Article 50, which is essentially cancelling Brexit and cancelling the process, you do not think that that causes any problem for democracy at all?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No.


Peter Whittle AM:  You really do not?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I cannot think of anything more democratic than giving the British public a say.


Peter Whittle AM:  No, you are talking about revoking Article 50.  Let me try this another way, Mr Mayor.  Do you still consider yourself to be a Mayor for all Londoners?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Absolutely.


Peter Whittle AM:  Well, 41% of those Londoners voted to leave.  Do not you think this shows at the very least a huge disrespect that you would call for the revocation of Article 50?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The disrespect is with those who campaigned to leave making promises that proved to be false.  The premise upon which the campaign was fought has been shown to be not true.  Promises were made that we could leave the EU and have the same terms of trade outside the club as inside the club.  Not true.  Promises were made that we could do a deal with the EU during the course of an afternoon and have a cup of tea.  Not true.  Promises were made that there would be hundreds of trade deals ready to go when we left the EU.  Not true.


Peter Whittle AM:  Sorry, Mr Mayor.  I have so little time.  When you want to talk about things being said that are not true, the whole of ‘Project Fear’ economically was untrue.  The whole of it was untrue and it is still going on now.  I repeat.  When you talk about revoking Article 50, this has real ramifications for people’s faith in our whole process.  You are a public figure.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chair, the Assembly Member should talk to some of those businesses that have chosen to leave our country over the last two years in relation to Project Fear.  He should speak to some of those EU citizens who have left our country because of the uncertainty over the last two years.  He should speak to those who are no longer investing in our country, whether it is a Nissan or whether it is Ford that is concerned.


Peter Whittle AM:  Mr Mayor, I have a few seconds.  All I would say to you is that you said, “Out means out.  No going back”.  You never thought people would vote out and you have never come to terms with it.  You have been trying to undermine it ever since, Mr Mayor.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There is a Conservative‑Brexit Alliance alliance taking place there.  It is a Farage [Nigel Farage MEP, Leader of the Brexit Party] and Johnson [The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP] dream team.