Write to the Mayor! He should ensure London MPs amend the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to provide for a referendum on the terms.
London voted Remain. In spite of some calls last September and July this year which do not appear to have been followed up, the Mayor is effectively supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s pro-Brexit stance. Sadiq Khan should be campaigning now for a referendum on the terms. I encourage you to write now to the Mayor while the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is going through Parliament – you can use the L4E Chairman's letter as a model or craft your own. By Michael Romberg, Committee Member of London4Europe.
Brexit will be a punch on the nose for London
London thrives on easy immigration – from the rest of the UK, from the EU, from the rest of the world. London is the epitome of the old German saying Stadtluft macht frei (the air of the city makes you free). London allows people to make their own lives free from the social inhibitions that make life a misery for nonconformists in some parts of the country. London is open to ideas from all over the world. London is hectic – and productive (London’s taxes support much of the rest of the UK).
Whatever our passport says is our nationality, we are Londoners first, we are Europeans, proudly citizens of the world.
London voted Remain
So it is no surprise that London voted Remain by 60:40. Northern Ireland voted 56:44, so only Scotland was more solidly Remain (62:38). Every other English Region and Wales voted Leave.
Was the Brexit vote anti-London?
Much of what Brexit was about was a protest against London. Professor Eric Kaufmann found that the closest fit for voting Leave was people who wanted a more ordered stable world without all those disquieting differences between people that so characterise London.
Much of England resents London’s dominance, even while people take the subsidies. Although “take back control” acted on EU membership it is hard to believe that voters did not mean London and Westminster.
So the harm that Brexit will do to London is not a regrettable side-effect that Governments will try to prevent. It is intended.
Sure, London will survive
London is a world city. It was a world city before the EU was formed. London will not turn into a backwater.
London became a great international capital on the back of the Empire. With the end of Empire came a story of decline. From a peak population of 8½m in 1939, London’s population fell to 6½m in 1991 before rising again to more than 8m. When I first came to London in 1976 the key transport story was the under-utilisation of the tube, with station closures the remedy.
And yes London was a great city in 1976. But how much greyer, stuffier and grimmer than it is now. Changes that include the economic prosperity that came with our membership of the EU and the freer exchange with our European partners have improved London dramatically: brighter, with more options, livelier.
As that distinguished strategic thinker (and boxer) Mike Tyson said: everyone has a plan until they get a punch on the nose. London had evolved a rôle as one of the capitals of Europe. After the punch of Brexit it would be the capital of little England living out an infeasible Imperial fantasy. That story would not end well for England, not for London.
The Mayor backs Brexit
And yet the Mayor has backed Jeremy Corbyn through all the twists and turns of his Brexit policy. Yes of course, the 2016 referendum is politically binding on the Government. Yes the Government must take Brexit forward. But a vote on an idea - a Leave campaign deliberately without a plan for Brexit - does not commit us to adopt whatever plan is later cooked up. Yet that is what Sadiq Khan urges.
He tries to secure minor improvements to the Government’s approach by not straying too far from it. But London did not vote for a slightly less hard Brexit. We voted Remain.
True Sadiq Khan did in July and September 2017 say that Labour should put a call for a referendum on the terms into its next election manifesto. But by expressing it like that he made clear that he was answering the question “how can Labour win a pre-Brexit election?” not “how can Brexit be stopped?”.
What Sadiq Khan should do now
Nicola Sturgeon and Sadiq Khan both have regional mandates for Remain. Nicola Sturgeon has devoted a great deal of effort to finding ways for Scotland to stay in the EU or at least the Single Market whatever happens to the UK. That search has proven futile and I hope that she will realise that stopping Brexit by a referendum on the terms is the way forward (if you are Scottish I suggest you write and tell her so). But she has tried to represent her electors.
London’s Mayor should be calling for a referendum on the terms. That is the democratic and honourable way to stop Brexit. It gives the people the final say. He should be encouraging, cajoling, persuading all the 73 London MPs – whether Labour or Conservative (the Liberal Democrats are already on board) – and London members of the House of Lords to amend the EU (Withdrawal) Bill currently before Parliament to provide for a referendum on the terms with the option to Remain.
Write to the Mayor!
I encourage you to add your voice to pressing the Mayor to act.
Nick Hopkinson, London4Europe Chair, wrote to the Mayor on 10 November 2017 to make these points. You can read his letter on this website. When you write you could either treat it as a model letter to copy and send or just use it as inspiration: the more you can personalise it the better.
You can also adapt the letter and send it to your London Assembly member to ask her/him to put pressure on the Mayor.
Even once the EU (Withdrawal) Bill has passed its Commons stages, there will be another opportunity to amend it when it goes through the House of Lords.
When you write give your name and street address so that the Mayor/ Assembly Member knows that you are/are not a constituent.