The government should be thanking Britain’s EU nationals and giving them a cast-iron guarantee that their lives will not change after Brexit, according to Sadiq Khan.
Speaking at a fringe event at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, the Mayor of London said anyone in favour of leaving the EU had to recognise that it was in their interests to make the UK’s exit from Europe work for both the capital and the rest of the country.
He told delegates: “London was the one region in England to vote to remain in the EU. What does that tell you? One, that we need immigration and two, that we want it. My view is we need to continue to attract talent.
“We have one million Londoners - and they are Londoners by the way who are EU citizens. My message to the government is thank God they are here, because they contribute economically, culturally and socially.
“We should be saying thank you to them for the contribution they make, but also giving them a cast-iron guarantee that things won’t change.”
The government has so far failed to give a clear answer on what will happen to EU citizens living in the UK post-Brexit - but after a speech in Florence last week, Theresa May told an Italian journalist: “We set out that for those EU citizens currently living in the UK who have made the UK their home, including those 600, 000 Italians who are in the UK, we want them to be able to stay and to have the same rights as they have at the moment.”
Khan said Labour’s job was to hold the prime minister to account during the Brexit process and ensure an exit deal was struck in the country’s interests and “not just the interests of the Tory party”.
Khan was also asked by Guardian editor Katharine Viner, who chaired the fringe event, whether he would support a Donald Trump state visit.
“The way I have always thought about the ‘special relationship’ [between the USA and the UK] is that it’s like being best mates with someone.
“Of course, in times of adversity you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them, you are always around for them if they need you, when they need you.
“But being best mates with someone is also about being straight with a mate and telling them when they are out of order.
“At a time when the President of the United States is doing and saying so many thing we disagree with, the idea of rolling out the red carpet is wrong. I have said that before and I’ll carry on saying it.”
The Mayor, who admitted he gets an average of five hours’ sleep at night - “six on a good day” - said he hoped his staff didn’t go to sleep at night “hoping and praying I’m not tweeting”.
He said he could not work out how Trump - who has repeatedly used Twitter to criticise him - found the time to tweet so often.
Khan said his team had jokingly placed bets on how long it would take to be asked about both the President and Uber, after Transport for London (TfL) ruled the company would have its licence revoked in the capital if it did not make changes to its operations.
The firm has been beset by allegations of exploitation and poor worker protections, amid other claims of sexual assault by its drivers.
″Parliament has decided there are rules when it comes to the regulation of private hire operaters,” he said.
“The rules apply to everyone, whether you’re a big guy or whether you’re a small guy, and the British public expects politicians to make sure the rules are applied fairly to everyone.”
Khan won applause from the room when he said any anger, concern and frustration at the decision from Uber users should be directed at the company itself, for “not playing by the rules of the game”.
“There are minicab firms up and down the streets of London and in other communities who are playing by the rules,” he added.
“I won’t apologise for supporting TfL, who are using regulations set by Parliament.
“We can decide if we want to live in a society where the big boys get to benefit and cut corners, or a society where rules are there and apply fairly to you, whoever you are. I would rather the latter than the former.”