Being the Deputy Mayor of London is a huge honour. During my term of office, I lost count of the fantastic events I spoke at and the organisations I met that contribute to the daily life of our World city. London Is Open – as the current Mayor rightly states.
One of the most optimistic and important events I attended was the World Hindu Economic Forum Conference which was hosted in London over three days from 11th to 13th September 2015. I was privileged to deliver the closing speech to a dynamic meeting of experts, investors and entrepreneurs from around the world. The audience was diverse, youthful, enthusiastic and boasted a large contingent of businesses based in our own North West London boroughs.
Former Government Minister Priti Patel MP highlighted the opportunities during her speech when she told the Conference, “With India’s ever growing influence on the global stage, events like the Forum do so much to strengthen the economic relations and trade links between our countries and our businesses.”
London Is Open – as the current Mayor rightly states
A Growing City
Two years later, London continues to offer unprecedented opportunities for international investors and new business start-ups.
Our expertise in the financial marketplace, based around the City of London and the growing hub at Canary Wharf, is second to nowhere else in the world. It will continue to offer opportunities with both these locations growing and evolving to face the challenges of the twenty first century. However, the financial crash of 2008 taught us valuable lessons about relying on just one business sector and London has made great efforts in the ensuing decade to diversify its business base.
Likewise, property and real estate continue to provide sound investment opportunities. Prices can fall as well as rise but in the long run, nobody lost out by investing in London property. Residential demand in particular remains high with the city projected to grow over the next decade. Tourism is another area of high demand – just try booking a hotel room in London at short notice.
The most exciting developments for the city have come in the form of new technology. Twenty years ago, when I worked at Old Street in North London, none of us could have imagined that such a run-down area would be transformed into the UK’s centre of technological innovation. Advanced new businesses have sprung up in the old warehouses and a service sector has grown alongside to support them.
In the newly regenerated district around Kings Cross and St Pancras Stations, the Francis Crick Institute has opened its doors. A leading centre of academic and life sciences, the new building is at the heart of a growing life sciences hub.
The 2012 Olympic Games may now be a distant memory but the cavernous media centre has been converted to provide office space for the arts and a growing media sector.
Moving on from Stratford and King’s Cross, the next area of the city to face regeneration will be the industrial lands around Old Oak Common and Park Royal to the West of the city. The proximity of this huge site to the Indian communities in Harrow, Brent and Ealing provides a real opportunity to build business links and strengthen economic cooperation with India.
The Brexit Opportunity
For the UK Government, delivering a successful Brexit poses a huge challenge. Free of EU regulation, the UK will be able to pursue its own objectives in a wider world but there is debate about what these objectives should be.
For some on the left, freedom from the EU provides an opportunity to retry socialist policies of greater public ownership and intervention. Others see the chance to close our borders and turn our focus inwards. I believe that we need to pursue a much more open and outward looking Brexit for much has changed in the world since we joined the EU in the 70s.
At that time, the only large trading partners were the US, Germany and the much-feared Japan, so it made sense to join the EU trading block. But the world has moved on.
Russia and China, once locked into repressive regimes, are open for business. The Gulf States and Tiger Economies of Asia provide more opportunities. Raw material producers like Canada and Australia are now great markets to sell to as well. Large economies like Brazil and India have taken their place on the world stage. Even the once unpromising markets in Africa are growing into confident trading partners.
The opportunities for the UK outside the EU are manifold – not just to benefit ourselves but to help build prosperity and stability throughout the world.
Particularly in London, valuable links already exist between our diverse community and these growing economies. Our global city celebrates Diversity but now we have a real opportunity to realise the economic and cultural benefits. Perhaps the real irony is that a city which voted to Remain in the EU has a potentially great future outside it.
The twentieth century was a time of war and recovery. The twenty first century will be characterised by worldwide growth and prosperity. London looks forward to playing its part.