THE BLOG

Boris Is Right - Up to a Point

06/01/2016 14:53 GMT | Updated 06/01/2017 10:12 GMT

Boris Johnson wrote that Britain should look at Denmark's example of not allowing foreigners to buy houses.

In 1985, I was the UK's representative in the EU's negotiations on the excitingly titled Capital Movement's Directive and I had to come to London and explain that I'd conceded this point because of the German invasion of 1864 when the Schleswig-Holstein problem wasn't properly resolved. Since I'm a half-Dane, my colleagues obviously suspected skulduggery - but the truth was the Danes just could not risk seeing all their summer houses on the west coast being bought by Germans.

Thirty years on, Britain is one of the most popular destinations for migrants across the world. They're not coming for the food or the weather, but because English is the most common foreign language learned by schoolchildren across the globe.

In general, this openness serves us well. But it does have downsides and we should assess them honestly.

One of the downsides is the impact on London property prices - which have, according to UBS, reached dangerous bubble dimensions again.

By and large this is not the result of EU citizens buying property, but the major fund flows are from Russia and China. Savills say Russians spend an average of £6.3m. The most expensive property ever sold in the UK - 1, Hyde Park - was bought by a Ukrainian.

London is now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, according to Roberto Saviano. Alexander Lebedev - the Russian born owner of the Independent newspapers and Evening Standard, believes London based banks have helped to hide over $6 trillion in corruption payments and criminal proceeds. Donald Toon - the director of economic crime at the National Crime Agency - has said:

"I believe the London property market has been skewed by laundered money. Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in the UK."

It is quite wrong that, as a consequence, British people are being priced out of their own capital.

These properties are not being bought as homes and anyone who drives through the centre of our capital at night knows from the darkness that once lively streets and squares are now dead. Peter Rees, the former City of London planning officer, also points out that homogenised international architecture is out of scale and damaging the London skyline.

This should be a wake-up call to policymakers. Policies are put in place to improve wellbeing, not as a matter of dogma. When they cease to deliver we should change them.

And I believe that we should now bring this free for all to an end and stop - not EU citizens - but all non-EU citizens from buying real estate in Britain.