Will the Square Mile prosper if Britain leaves the EU ?

City of London at Night

The potential impact on the City of London if Britain leaves the EU was discussed last night in a debate at Guildhall sponsored by the Evening Standard, the City of London Corporation, GVA and the Centre for London.

The debate, which was at times comical, and at other times serious and biting, saw the high profile panelists discuss their views on the impact on the City of London if Britain should leave the EU.

With Opening remarks by Lord Mayor of the City of London Roger Gifford, the free event was chaired by the BBC's Jon Sopel, and the panelists included Business Secretary Vince Cable, economist Vicky Pryce, Sir Martin Sorrell - CEO of WPP, entrepreneur Luke Johnson, Tory back-bencher Jesse Norman and MP Gisela Stuart.

Gifford started out the discussion by mentioning that at some point in the future, possibly in 2015, Britain will renegotiate the terms of it's EU membership, which could perhaps be put to a public vote in 2017. After Gifford's remarks, Sopel introduced the panel to the hundreds in attendance. The night got off to a comical start when Sopel, after introducing Pryce, said that she would be happy to take your points later.

Here are some worthy points from the night:

Cable, who is in favor of Britain staying in the EU, said that much of the growth is happening outside of the EU and that the UK is only 1/10th of the EU, while Germany far outstreams all of the other countries.

Sorrell, another one in favor of Britain staying in the EU, said that EU concerns are not very relevant, and that if Britain does leave the EU, jobs will be gone and the UK will lose 1/3 of its foreign direct investment.

Johnson, who feels that Britain should leave the EU, predicted that Britain will be the fastest growing economy in the EU next year, and then took a shot at Sorrell by bringing up a letter that Sorrell wrote in 2003 to Tony Blair urging him to join the Euro otherwise it would be damaging to Britain.

Pryce, who is in favor of Britain staying in the EU, said the banks in Europe are basket cases, the risk has not gone away, and that Britain is doing very well, and that there is nothing for us to fear, we should not contemplate leaving. Norman feels that the City of London would prosper if Britain leaves the EU, though he said that such a departure would not be orderly, and that 'a sane person can only be for it.' Stuart, who is on the same side with Johnson and Norman, said that 'things have to change dramatically if you want things to stay the same.'

Later in the discussion, Johnson took another hit at Sorrell by reminding the audience that WPP had moved its headquarters to Ireland in 2008 in a bid to slash its tax bill. WPP moved its headquarters back to the UK in 2012, but Sorrell defended this by saying the reason was because there was so much uncertainty in the economy and the threat of legislation.

The Q&A session of the evening was just as lively, as one member of the audience mentioning that Britain is 'shackled to a dead horse.' Of course, members of the UKIP party were in full force at the event, with many of them saying the same thing - Britain should definitely leave the EU.

In closing remarks, Sorrell said that business is more mobile, fluid, energetic. By pulling out of the EU, he said that you increase the uncertainty, the roadmap is unclear. He continued by saying that if we want to have a voice in the club, we need to be inside of it, and not outside.

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