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Brexit deadline

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 28th June 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Dismore Andrew Dismore Labour

Are Londoners at risk of seeing another no-deal panic in October given that the Government is no closer to securing a deal with the EU?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you, Chair. A no-deal outcome will be dreadful for London and disastrous for the country. Unfortunately, it is looking more likely because the Conservative Party leadership contest is fast becoming a race to see who can take the most extreme position on Brexit. Our next PM is not being chosen by the country as a whole but by a tiny and deeply unrepresentative group of 100,000 or so Party members.

Regardless of who is selected, the new PM will face the same problems as their predecessor: a Parliament that is deadlocked and a withdrawal agreement that the EU has made clear is not up for negotiation. I fear the Government is ignoring Donald Tusk’s [President of the European Council] friendly advice to us, which is not to waste this time.

In the first six weeks of the current extension, the PM continued to push exactly the same deal Parliament rejected three times. Then she resigned, and the Government will have already squandered half of the extra time the EU gave us by the time the next Conservative leader steps into Downing Street. Even if they want to cut a new deal, they will not have enough time to negotiate one. They will end up in exactly the same place as before, no deal, or asking the EU for a third extension to which there is no guarantee it will consent.

The most sensible course of action would be to withdraw Article 50 immediately. It is now more obvious than ever that Article 50 should not have been triggered before the Government had a proper plan in place and was an act of political expedience which has damaged the national interest. If the new PM’s Government tries to leave without a deal, I hope that enough MPs would support a vote of no confidence to allow the country to have its say through a general election. The British people must get the final say on Brexit one way or another.

Photo of Andrew Dismore Andrew Dismore Labour

Thank you for that response. As you indicated, I think the candidates for the Conservative Party leadership and PM have all been saying, “We will renegotiate another deal”, but the EU has stated time and again it will not reopen the agreement. Do you agree that the future PM, whichever of the remaining sorry bunch it is, must stop pulling the wool over their party members’ eyes by pandering to their xenophobic prejudices and tell the truth for once? You have rightly said that local government as well as businesses need urgent clarity, and what will happen once the UK leaves the EU so they can put effective continuity plans in place? What are businesses supposed to do when frontrunner Boris Johnson’s approach to businesses concerns about the hard Brexit he wants is to say, “Eff business”, as he did in June last year [2018] to the event marking the Queen’s official birthday?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Quite, and this is one of the many, many questions that the frontrunner needs to answer, and you can see why he has been hidden away and not opened himself up to scrutiny. One of the worst things for not just businesses but for this generation and the next generation and the NHS construction is a no-deal Brexit. It would be catastrophic for our country. Even Michael Gove [Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] has admitted now that PM [Theresa] May prematurely served notice to quit on Article 50. She should have had a plan in place before she served the Article 50 notice.

The sensible course of action is to withdraw Article 50. Give us time to consider what the options are. If the new PM wants to leave the EU - and he clearly will want to - he can devise a plan to do so sensibly and then, if need be, reserve Article 50. Clearly I would like a general election for the British public to get a say for the first time on the deal that has been negotiated with the option of remaining in the EU.

Photo of Andrew Dismore Andrew Dismore Labour

The next PM, as we have discussed, could be frontrunner Boris Johnson, who previously supported remaining in the EU in the single market, even calling those who opposed Turkey’s accession to the EU “foolish”, maybe because of his own Turkish ancestry. He has switched to this careerist opportunism when there was a chance to become leader of the Conservative Party, with his lies about Turkey, about £350 million a week to the NHS and his dismissive attitude to business. Do you agree that Londoners cannot trust Boris Johnson after he abandoned their best interests to pursue his own prime ministerial ambitions above all other considerations? He has said at his launch party he wanted to do to the country what he did to London. What do you think of that?

Photo of Jennette Arnold Jennette Arnold Labour

Mr Mayor, can you go to a specific answer about London? Let me read the question. “Are Londoners at risk of seeing another no-deal panic in October given that the Government is no closer to securing a deal with the EU?” That is the topic of the question.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

London needs a PM who understands the needs of our city and our country. Any PM who is going to pursue a no-deal Brexit clearly does not understand the needs of our city or our country.

Photo of Jennette Arnold Jennette Arnold Labour

Thank you. Let us move to the next question in the name of Assembly Member Bacon, and it is MD2441. Perhaps you will explain what that is in your answer.