Joel Davidson is a former councillor in Brent and was a London Assembly candidate in 2016. Amir Sadjady is a Conservative activist in Hammersmith.
We both campaigned enthusiastically for Vote Leave in London, and were delighted to see the real people’s vote, back in 2016, deliver a clear result that the UK wished to leave the European Union.
Since then, our Prime Minister has been buffeted by an extraordinary array of forces determined to scupper her: the bad faith of the EU, the even worse faith of the Labour Party leadership, and shrill celebrities determined to disparage anyone who voted Leave as little Englanders or, even worse, as closet racists. Despite all these obstructions, we now have a deal with the EU which does indeed – perhaps miraculously – put the UK on the brink of leaving the European Union, and regaining sovereignty in a huge swathe of areas.
We are consequently alarmed at some of the tropes being banded about by some hard Brexiteers, who seem completely opposed to any deal at all One phrase which really sticks in the throat is that the Government is “betraying the 17.4 million voters who wanted to leave”. This is disingenuous at best, and we feel the need to challenge it here.
As we say, were amongst those 17.4 million voters who delivered the victory for Leave, with every vote carrying equal weight, and without these voters, the UK would be firmly inside the European Union and en route to fully joining a federal Europe.
But as it is, we now stand on the brink of a far looser relationship with the EU, with close trading links but an ending of political union. We are confident that even supposedly ‘Remainiac’ London (where more people voted Leave in 2016 than those who had the misfortune of voting for Sadiq Khan) will be comfortable with this settlement.
For London, in particular, this deal will undoubtedly be beneficial, since businesses can be guaranteed that their current trading arrangements in goods with Europe will remain unaffected. There is tacit acknowledgement in this arrangement that a customs deal with Europe that maintains the highest European standards and gives British business access to European markets on an equal footing will unambiguously be good for business across the country.
This is another good reason for London Conservatives to get behind the deal: our businesses in London are high quality, and so we can only benefit from selling to our largest trading partner and closest neighbour in a completely unhindered way. So instead of wasting time chasing such rainbow as a second referendum, we London Conservatives should show that ours is the pragmatic party of business, and back this deal for the benefit of London’s economy.
We should also be taking Sadiq Khan to task for his complete no-show on this issue. Ever the world statesman in his own head, he has spent much of the last few months swanning around Brussels, trying to push to overturn Brexit whilst his city is submerged in a complete breakdown of law and order and his mismanagement of Crossrail leaves London’s economy imperilled.
Against all odds, the Prime Minister has produced a Withdrawal Agreement that very much ensures that “London Is Open” (to the chagrin of many in the ERG), so any competent, reasonable, pro-business mayor should be very happy with it. Not so Mayor Khan: his cynical tactics throughout the last two and a half years merely expose him again for the deeply partisan Labour apparatchik who enthusiastically backed Jeremy Corbyn in his infamous original winning leadership campaign.
The truth of Khan’s record is that he has no interest in helping business. If he did, he would have done something about the misery and economic chaos of the 14 tube strikes so far under his mayoralty. If he cared about helping small businesses, he would be acting to curb the breakdown of law and order on London’s streets, and would be taking action to clean up and rejuvenate London’s high streets. But he always prefers self-serving and self-written press releases to real action for Londoners.
To back up our view, we attended the Business Show 2018 recently at London’s ExCel, and had the pleasure of speaking to a wide range of business owners, of all sizes and across a range of sectors. You can see the video we made about our visit here. We were struck by the near -nanimous consensus that emerged: any ambitious business sees maintaining the closest possible trading links with Europe as an unmitigated positive. Even smaller businesses that do not trade directly with Europe may be keen to in the future, and in the B2B sector, suppliers to large multinationals are massively impacted by the success of their main customers. By remaining in a customs arrangement with Europe which retains high standards and open access, the Government is giving British businesses of all sizes the ability to have greater control over its expansion plans.
The Prime Minister’s deal undoubtedly delivers for business, as well as on the referendum result which soft Leavers were crucial in determining. We see amidst the overwhelming and unrelenting media interest in all things Brexit a real opportunity for pro-business London Conservatives to regain our reputation in London as the party of competence and commerce by enthusiastically backing this deal in London and the South East.