THE BLOG

Sadiq Khan's Attempts To Blame Brexit For His Own Housing Failings Show A New Level Of Desperation

14/03/2017 17:12 GMT | Updated 14/03/2017 17:12 GMT
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Sadiq Khan's housing policies are set up to fail, so it is not surprising that since his election in May he has been seeking every excuse under the sun for why he may not deliver in this area. His latest effort, despite a worrying lack of evidence, is to blame Brexit.

Referring to a recent GLA report titled 'Inside Housing', he issued a press release pointing to the fact one in four construction workers in London comes from the EU. In short he claimed that leaving the EU's Single Market and Customs Union would automatically mean disaster for house building in London because of possible restrictions on foreign workers.

The reality of course is it would mean no such thing, and it is important to iron out the facts.

Once we leave the EU, the UK will be free to choose any immigration policy we like. In spite of unhelpful voices like that of the Mayor, the reality is that the Government has been very clear that it wants EU citizens to stay but it does not wish to guarantee this until it receives guarantees over the rights of EU-domiciled UK citizens to continue to live in the EU.

All the evidence suggests that EU citizens will continue to be extremely welcome in London - including those working in the construction industry.

Clearly the UK does value EU citizens who have chosen to make their home in our country. The desire for control over immigration does not and should not imply that the Government does not understand the great many positives of movement of labour.

We have the chance to end all in-work benefits for non-British citizens, or to prioritise high-skilled immigration over low-skilled immigration or to make our immigration system entirely blind to country of origin so that we no longer prioritise EU citizens over those from the rest of the world.

Leaving the EU does not automatically lead to a specific system of immigration so, whilst it might suit Sadiq Khan's purposes to claim a "hard Brexit" will lead to disaster in London's construction industry, he is being disingenuous.

Although the Housing in London report does not mention Brexit, it does note a strong reliance on EU workers in the construction industry - whilst making no suggestion that those workers will not be available post-Brexit.

If the Mayor genuinely believes this is a risk, he could take measures now to reduce the construction industry's reliance on EU workers, such as new apprenticeship schemes for Londoners.

Whilst London benefits hugely from welcoming the best and the brightest from around the UK and the world, the Mayor's first priority should be to existing Londoners (whatever their nationality) over those who might wish to become Londoners in the future.

To this end, a focus on skills and training today would help to ensure that any changes are as painless as possible and provide the maximum benefit to Londoners.

Unfortunately that sensible, rational, reasonable approach is a long way from Sadiq Khan's style. As long as he's Mayor, it is all of our responsibility to call him out when his ambition lead him to favour cheap press releases and flashy gimmicks over effective policy that delivers for Londoners. Unfortunately that means our voices are likely to go hoarse over the next 3 and a bit years.