The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is no stranger to Majorca and loves the island.
"We’ve been before to various parts of the island as a family. It’s a wonderful island, a great place to switch off and enjoy the weather. You get to meet tourists from across Europe, not just the British, Italians, French and Germans, and of course the locals. What’s also special about Majorca is that it’s very popular with the Spanish. This is always a good sign when you go to a tourist resort and you get the indigenous people on holiday there as well," Khan told the Bulletin yesterday.
Trying to switch off he may be, but developments back home in the UK and, more importantly, London are constantly on his mind.
Recently, the mayor has been accused of having his eye off the ball with regard to running London and "talking too much about Brexit", which is not his remit, as one TV pundit put it.
"We’ve been going through a very tumultuous time in our country. Brexit has caused huge problems. Being members of the European Union, we’ve been responsible for jobs, growth and prosperity, and the worry is that, if we leave the European Union and in particular if we leave without any deal whatsoever, it could be catastrophic. I’m an optimistic person but you need that optimism to be based on the evidence and when I think of the amount of money, energy and effort spent on a no-deal Brexit, it means that bread and butter issues such as the NHS, policing, jobs, housing have been ignored. That is a real cause for concern.
"But we’re also a divided country. What I want from politicians, me included, is to bring people together. My worry is that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is heading towards a no-deal Brexit because he’s trying to please some members of his party. That’s going to cause huge challenges for our country, even more so than we currently have.
"If you think about the quantity of money which has been set aside for a no-deal Brexit, that money could be spent on additional policing. We’ve lost over 22,000 police officers across the country during the past nine years. The NHS could do with a lot more investment, we need to build homes which people can afford to live in, new school projects have been decimated.
"A fair summary of our government over the past three years has been Brexit, Brexit, Brexit and everything else has been forgotten about."
When touching on the challenges facing expatriates here in Majorca, for example, he said that he does not apologise for talking and being concerned about Brexit and its consequences.
"Just take the exchange rate, and this is before we’ve even left the European Union. I have met people at the airport, on the plane and since I’ve been here who, in the space of weeks, have seen the cost of their holidays become more expensive because the exchange rate is so poor. This not only has a huge impact on expatriates living in the EU on a pension or fixed income, it has also hit imports, so the price of goods in the UK is going up. These are just some of the things that those who campaigned to leave the EU didn’t tell us about.
"Let’s take young people as another example, those thinking about a future career. Before, you had freedom of movement to go and study in Europe; all that’s been affected as well. But the great thing about London is that we’ve got a fantastic economy and it’s got a very diverse ecosystem: think of technology, life sciences, culture, the environment, so as a city, I think we’ll be ok, but I worry about the opportunities lost by leaving the EU. It’s dogmatic, it’s ideological, it’s not pragmatic. I think that, as with for example the experiences expatriates are enduring now, there are consequences with leaving the EU, and my concern is that three to four years ago when the campaign was being fought, those honest conversations didn’t take place. Lots of lies were told during the referendum campaign, lots of promises were made which have not borne fruit.
"There was a phrase used that we would have our cake and eat it. Well, hang on. How’s that possible? How can you not be a member of a club but still expect all the benefits? It doesn’t happen and it’s not going to."
And policing is a major worry for the mayor. "If we haven’t got the resources, be this in London or across the country, crime cannot be tackled properly. If we haven’t got enough police, fewer criminals can be arrested; it’s that simple.
"Looking to the short term, if Johnson continues steamrolling towards a no-deal Brexit, he will be faced with two decisions. Either call a general election or hold a people’s vote on Brexit. He hasn’t got the parliamentary majority to get no deal through. So I think he’ll opt for going to the people and, based on what we all know now, ask the country again it it wants to leave the EU. ‘London is open’ is our motto in the capital, but what about the rest of the country, what about Britons living in the EU? When negotiations first began, it should have been immediately agreed that all current rights will remain untainted. That didn’t happen and it means that millions of expats and Europeans currently living and working in the UK don’t know what the future holds. None of us were told this, I don’t think anyone was actually aware of the full implications of turning our backs on our neighbours. In London we have a promise to do all we can to give people a helping hand, just like the city did to my family.
"We want people to come to London, it’s a great city and I’m extremely proud to be its mayor, but I fear for the rest of the country and that nothing good is going to come out of a no-deal Brexit whatsoever.
"At least Boris and I get on well, and having a prime minister who was the former mayor of London is a big plus.
"We can leave politics aside and talk on a level playing field because he understands the problems the city faces and how important the capital is to the UK, but we’re all facing tough challenges."
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