Brexit is the biggest event in London’s history for a generation, perhaps since the Second World War.
London’s population and economy have been growing since the 1990s. Today the capital is one of a handful of truly global cities in an urbanising world. Its global character is reflected in the diversity of its population, in its relatively relaxed attitude towards immigration and in the clear majority of Londoners who voted to remain in the EU.
London is a global centre for finance, for tech, for creative industries, for not-for-profits and for higher education. Its vitality, diversity and economic growth have made it a magnet for young and creative people from across the country and the world.
London’s economy generates one fifth of the UK’s GDP and one third of UK taxes, and firms based in the capital provide jobs across the country. Its success is Britain’s success.
Growth has also brought strains to the capital. Speculation and undersupply have pushed up house prices to levels that are unaffordable for many middle-income Londoners. Transport congestion constrains mobility and worsens air quality, while transport costs are also rising as workers have to commute longer distances. For many Londoners and non-Londoners alike, the capital’s prosperity seems detached from their own experience.
London’s success is not solely a result of EU membership, but Brexit presents big challenges to the capital – challenges that are different both in degree and in character from those posed for the rest of the UK. Addressing these obstacles – and the opportunities that Brexit could offer – in the upcoming negotiations and in domestic devolution, will be essential to ensuring a prosperous future for the UK.