Cities in the UK and Ireland, such as London and Dublin, share many similarities. They are exciting, vibrant, thriving cultural centres with strong local economies.
The great business, trade and cultural links between our cities go back many decades and, as the mayor of London, I’m determined to protect these important ties. As we approach Brexit, this mission is more vital than ever.
That’s why I have come to Dublin today – to extend the hand of friendship and to remind the Irish people that, although the UK voted to leave the European Union, London voted to remain. We will always consider ourselves part of Europe and – regardless of what happens with Brexit – we will continue to work with other European cities, including the great cities of Ireland, for the benefit of us all.
As the first London mayor to come to Dublin on an official visit, I believe this is an excellent opportunity to strengthen relationships with Irish leaders and senior politicians. I am looking forward to meeting President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and I’m also delighted to be speaking at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, where I’ll be banging the drum for ever greater business ties between London and Ireland.
Our economic links form a vital part of the success of both our countries. The annual trade between the UK and Ireland now amounts to €60bn, directly sustaining more then 400,000 jobs. London receives more direct investment from Ireland than any other overseas city, with a significant proportion coming from Dublin. And half of all the visitors to Ireland are from the UK. I want to build on these great links, as they are clearly not only worth defending, but expanding and championing at every opportunity.
So, throughout my visit, I will be saying loud and clear that no matter what happens with Brexit, London is, and will always remain, open. Open to new investment with Irish businesses. Open to new trade. And open to the Irish people.
I also want to encourage greater city-to-city collaboration across Europe so we can learn from each other to help tackle some of the biggest shared challenges we face – from the housing crisis to air pollution and crime.
Throughout the history of my city, we have always looked outwards and sought to form new partnerships by engaging with the world. I believe these values define London, and the Irish people should know that this will never change.
In London, we will also never forget that a big part of our special relationship is due to the huge contribution made by the Irish in London. We are lucky to have more than 160,000 Londoners who are originally from Ireland and hundreds of thousands more with Irish heritage.
There is no doubt that London would simply not be the city it is today without our Irish community, whose members have helped enrich the city over many generations, making our capital a livelier, warmer, more vibrant place to live, work and visit.
Anyone who has ever come to our incredible St Patrick’s Day celebrations will know the craic that day in my home town is terrific.
And for me, this is what makes London so special – everyone coming together to embrace and celebrate each other’s cultures, showing that London is truly open to all, regardless of nationality or background.
So, whatever happens over the coming weeks and months with Brexit, I want the people of Ireland to know we remain optimistic about our future in London and optimistic about our future relationships with key European cities like Dublin.
And, as we navigate the uncertainty ahead, one thing will remain constant: London is – and always will be – open to Ireland and the great Irish people.
Sadiq Khan is the Mayor of London
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