Today the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has launched a campaign telling the world that London is ‘still open for business’. He has announced a Twitter hashtag: #LondonisOpen. It’s an odd campaign, echoing the ‘Britain is open for business’ line that George Osborne was trying to peddle before being sacked. The premise seems to be that the Brexit vote was a disaster, but one we can recover from if we grit our teeth and adopt the spirit of the blitz. But the only people who thought that Brexit would somehow not mean being open for business were Osborne, Khan and others advocating Project Fear. Their gloom was outvoted by the optimism of Vote Leave.
I’m sure that Mr Khan is very well-intentioned. But he’d do better to admit that Brexit was the biggest possible declaration that London – and the rest of the UK – is very much open for business. And, crucially, open to global business, not just EU business. Millions of Brits had grown tired of being hemmed in by a protectionist Little Europe, and now want to cut trade deals with the world. Brexit was a vote of a globally-minded people to raise their sights to more distant horizons.
And the signs of post-Brexit financial disaster? London houses are becoming cheaper, at long last. But jobs? Reed, a recruitment specialist, said at the weekend that demand for new staff has flourished since the referendum. It has added 150,000 more jobs to its website in the past three weeks, compared with the same period last year. There are 15,000 more jobs in London alone. James Reed, its chairman, puts it well:
‘If a drop in confidence begins to feed through I think we’d be the first to see it.