Press Release

Metro Alliances and Regionally Managed Migration Vital for a Better Brexit

London and the UK’s other city regions need to establish an alliance to secure a better Brexit, backed by fiscal devolution and regionally-managed migration, a manifesto from Centre for London argues today.

Read the Manifesto

The manifesto, Better Brexit, Better City, proposes that the Mayor of London should join with newly elected metro mayors and other city leaders across the country to form a Convention of City Leaders on Brexit. The alliance should lobby for a Brexit deal which enables access to EU trade and talent, and devolution of services and fiscal powers to help cities succeed.

London and the ten large cities in the Core Cities Group produce almost half of the nation’s wealth and government needs to ensure that Brexit protects their vital interests. The manifesto therefore joins calls for them to join forces to make their case, and for the English regions and devolved authorities – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – to be given the power to manage migration in line with the needs of urban and rural economies.

The manifesto places a premium on developing a generous visa regime for young Europeans, highlighting the vital contribution they make to the city’s economy and soft power. The free flow of workers between the capital and the continent supports every part of the London economy, from its hotels and restaurants, through to design agencies, city banks and consultancies. A devolved system for London (also potentially extendable to other regions) could include:

  1. City-Maker visas – One-year visas allowing Europeans to look for employment or start-up opportunities in London, with fast-track work permits for those who find opportunities in regional priority sectors.
  2. Young European visas – Enabling young people to live and work in London for two years, with reciprocal arrangements like those between the UK, Canada and Australia, with fast track work permit applications permitted at the end of that period.
  3. New post-study visa – A new post-study visa should be introduced to enable European students to stay on in London to work after graduation. .

The manifesto also calls for urgent clarity on transitional trade arrangements, to mitigate the loss of service-sector business in non-financial sectors such as media, law and architecture, as well as financial services. Finally, Centre for London argues that London and other cities need urgently to tackle long enduring economic and social inequalities by being given powers over skills, childcare, apprenticeships and local property taxes.

Richard Brown, Research Director at Centre for London said:

“Modern cities are powered by talent and trade. London’s businesses and its universities depend on EU talent; losing this could damage the economy and London’s character as an open and welcoming city. London and other UK cities need to do more to help their citizens access opportunity, but also need to remain open to Europe and the world.

“If London is going to maintain its competitiveness from outside the EU, it will need continued access to international talent, a trade deal that reflects the importance of service sector exports, and new powers that will ready its citizens and infrastructure to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

“The Mayor of London should fight for a Brexit that keeps London open – to talent and trade – allying with newly elected metro mayors and other city leaders to make the case for the UK’s cities. London and the ten core cities account for 50 per cent of the UK economy; the Government should listen to their voice.”

Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, Catherine McGuinness, said:

“The financial and professional services sector is an integral part of the UK’s economy, accounting for 2.2 million jobs and £72 billion in annual tax revenues.

“The sector has helped propel London onto the world stage, and established it as the best place to conduct business and the number one global financial centre

“Brexit, however, is a complex issue, with potential to undermine this. As a sector we have three ‘asks’ ahead of negotiations: securing a bespoke trade deal that facilitates mutually beneficial two-way access to EU markets; retaining access to global talent; and securing a transitional phase early in negotiations so businesses can prepare as best as possible.

“The financial and professional services sector has thrived, in part, thanks to the diverse talent London has been able to attract, both from home and abroad. It is important the sector continues to appeal to talented individuals from across the world, while at the same time developing and attracting local talent.

“It’s reassuring to see our priorities align with many of those identified in Centre for London’s manifesto. We look forward to continue working closely with a number of groups across London and the UK to ensure we can make a success of Brexit.”


Chair of Vote Leave Watch, Chuka Umunna, said:

“London is the greatest city in the world precisely because it is so internationalist and engaged with the rest of the world, and in particular the European Union. That openness needs to remain in place after Brexit.

“To continue to grow after Brexit, as this report by the Centre for London sets out, London needs greater control over immigration and taxes. London’s economy should not be sacrificed by the Government’s damaging obsession with limiting immigration to the ‘tens of thousands’.”

Tom Brake, leading supporter of Open Britain said:

“The Government’s hard Brexit strategy will put jobs and prosperity in London at risk. London will need new tools to protect itself from hard Brexit, which is why this report by the Centre for London is so important.

“London needs the exact same benefits in trade as EU membership, as the Government have promised, and it needs continued openness to the rest of the world to bring in the skills we need to keep our economy and our public services running.”

Notes to editors:

  • The manifesto draws on research undertaken for ‘Open City – London After Brexit’, a joint project between Centre for London and the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath. The final report of that project will be published in early July.
  • The UK Core Cities are: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield. “Metro Mayors” were elected on 4 May 2017 in Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, the West of England, Peterborough-Cambridgeshire, and the West Midlands.