Tuesday, 28 June 2016

London Council Leader Calls for Independence for London

Peter John (Lab), the leader of Southwark Borough Council in London, has called for London to become an independent city state in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU). Writing in the Local Government Chronicle (subscription) in a piece entitled ‘London should be an independent city state’ he says:

‘Whilst it is widely accepted that Scotland’s backing for Remain strengthened its independence campaign, it is assumed that London - with a population of eight million, far exceeding Scotland’s five million - will shrug its shoulders and bear the highest cost of an EU departure that its population did not want and did not vote for.

This is an untenable position. EU membership and access to the single market is vitally important for London. Sadiq Khan has underlined this view in his reaction to the Leave vote. Until three months ago even Boris Johnson recognised the importance of the single market to London’s prosperity.

… The vote to leave the EU has thrown the political pack of cards into the air. Nothing will be the same. So the opportunity now exists for London and Londoners to make the case for a properly autonomous future, with the values of openness, tolerance and EU membership at the heart of our ambitions.

We need to be sufficiently mature to recognise the divisions and contrasts which this referendum has exposed and not be deterred or frightened by them. It has demonstrated that London is different to much of the UK. We should embrace those differences and seek a new governmental settlement for our city which places an autonomous city state at the centre of Europe and the world, and not be forced to turn our backs on the people and the markets who have driven our capital’s prosperity over the past 40 years.’

Jules Pipe the Chair of London Councils and Mayor of the London Borough of Hackney, doesn’t go as far as asking for full independence when he says:

“The result of the EU Referendum makes it vital that London’s government – the Mayor and the boroughs – work closely together to sustain the growth and success of our city in this new environment.  It furthers the need for us to press for a devolutionary settlement that allows London to make the sort of contribution that our country needs and to ensure that the focus is not just upon the transfer of powers between Brussels and Whitehall.  It is critical that London and local government more generally has a seat at the table in the discussions and negotiations that will follow.”

Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, said:

“The mayor is right that we must remain part of the single market… Where the mayor needs more powers to act, he should be given them.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan also failed to grasp the nettle of full independence for the Capital when speaking at the Times CEO summit, he said:

“As much as I might like the idea of a London city state, I’m not seriously talking about independence today. I am not planning to install border points on the M25!

“But on behalf of all Londoners, I am demanding more autonomy for the capital - right now. More autonomy in order to protect London’s economy from the uncertainty ahead, to protect the businesses from around the world who trade here and to protect our jobs, wealth and prosperity.”

The underlining of the word today, is mine, but Khan has perhaps left the door open to the possibility of independence for London. The problem with saying that London wants to remain in the single European market, is that this will probably not be an option without free movement of people, and it looks as though the British exit settlement will not include this. Of course, everything is unclear at the moment, but I think Khan will wait and see what the British government wants exactly and what the EU states will allow.

The mention of walls around the M25 is a red herring I think. There will be no need for London to build a wall around itself, as we can have an open border with England, although the English maybe will want to build one themselves, but it is not necessary from London's point of view.

I think Khan would be wise to leave the option of an independent city state open, in case no deal can be reached which is acceptable to London. We live in very uncertain times, let us not close our options down. 


  1. What might all this mean in terms of London housing? And London councils' record of dispersing people — especially benefit claimants — out of London?

    Alan Wheatley

  2. Well, we'd have the money, so we'd decide what to spend it on.