THIS past week my Twitter feed has been inundated by the hashtag #LondonIsOpen, inspired by the new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan it has sent a strong message out to the world that London is open for business in a post-Brexit economy.
This is exactly the message we should be sending to the globe and we need the support of inspired leaders such as Sadiq to ensure that UK companies form successful new relationships with new customers from across the world, critical as in the next 20 years 90% of global growth is expected to come from outside of Europe.
Which is why we need to see the same response from the rest of the UK and get #MidlandsAreOpen and #NorthIsOpen featured on social media.
London should, and must, remain a global city. It is vital to the UK economy – but if we continue to grow London at the expense of the rest of the country then we will have fundamentally failed to address the issues that resulted in the UK’s vote to exit from Europe.
The 21st century model of wealth distribution both between and within countries is at its most stretched. Indeed economic disparity between the poorest in society and the richest is now greater within countries than it ever has been.
The Remain campaign focused on what we would lose by exiting Europe – which left vast swathes of the UK, who felt they already had nothing to lose unaffected. The vote to leave the EU was a vote against global capitalism that has seen cities like London thrive at the expense of others.
As the country begins to absorb the possibilities of a post-Brexit economy we will look even more globally for our trade and investment deals. We have to ensure that the whole of the UK and not just the South East receives the benefits from this new growth.
Theresa May issued a rallying cry to make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us. This is a welcome view and one that now needs to be entrenched in policy, both at home and internationally in how we encourage investment in the UK, not just in the South East but across the UK ensuring we reach all parts of society.
As this new government heads into recess for a break from what has been an incredible few weeks in UK politics I hope that our new Prime Minister and her Cabinet recognise the immediate importance of rebalancing one of the most economically unbalanced economies in Europe. This must be done through continuing to support, but more importantly investing in, initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine.
London’s phenomenal growth has come from a healthy mix of publically primed investment followed by substantially follow on investments from the private sector.
While foreign direct investment in the Northern Powerhouse is now on the rise, having increased by 126% in the two years since George Osborne’s announcement to create a Northern Powerhouse, the North and other less developed regions still desperately requires continued public sector pump-priming.
In particular it must receive this in infrastructure such as transport and digital but also in the knowledge base economy, such as investments in the North’s scientific and clinical research base, if it is to attract the same level of private sector investment that London and the South East have enjoyed for so many years.
Without the investment and pump-priming that Government, rather than the private sector, is best placed to inject then London and the South East will continue to out pace the rest of the country, and weaken the country as a whole.
We run the risk of leaving vast swathes of the country behind and if this happens the UK will become even more divided at a critical time in its history when it needs to be united. It is the UK that needs to be #OpenForBusiness, not just London.
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