Siân Berry: Leaving Europe is not a tenable position for any mayoral candidate to take

Greens’ mayoral candidate tells London Loves Business why she supports the EU and why she thinks Boris is campaigning for a Brexit

The Green Party’s mayoral candidate Siân Berry finds herself in a somewhat unexpected situation, in which she is aligned with London’s leading business bodies in wanting to remain in the EU, while the Conservative Party’s mayoral candidate is not.

The EU debate has divided the Conservative Party, with current Mayor of London Boris Johnson, and his protégé Zac Goldsmith supporting the Leave campaign.

The Institute of Directors, the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) and the London Chamber of Commerce have all publicly voiced support for Britain’s continued EU membership.

Meanwhile, Goldsmith and Johnson have said they will vote against EU membership at the forthcoming election.

London Loves Business caught up with Berry to find out her position and what she thinks of her rivals’ stances.

Do you think it is important for London to remain in the EU?

“Oh, it’s so important. If you think about the number of people you have living and working here and helping to run businesses who are from the EU and how successful the open policy on migration has been for London, it would be so wrong to go back on that now.

“London has become such a success story in that respect. I’m in favour of being in the EU and I have very warm feelings towards the rest of Europe, I like the way different countries work together.

“As Greens, we are in favour of decisions being taken at the right level, and we want more localism in lots of areas, but there are definitely areas in which things the EU, having cross border policies, makes perfect sense.

“A lot of that is to do with how businesses run – health and safety rules on products, and worker rights, so that companies aren’t undercutting each other on things like worker rights, and people still have a basic set of rights that they can point to.

“And obviously there’s the environment. Air pollution does blow over from Europe and goes into the water and the sea, so it’s really important to have a pan European strategy and policy sometimes. We need a minimum standard so one country can’t just relax everything and pollute the rest of the countries.

“I don’t see any logic in any mayor of London or mayor of London candidate in wanting to pull us out of Europe.”

Why do you think Boris has done that?

“I always thought of him as quite a strong pro-European. He used to work in Brussels, and though he uses those rhetorical flourishes, at heart he seemed so pro-Europe I can only think that it is a political decision. But if you look at it closely, it’s not entirely an out position, he’s just decided to take an opposite position from other members of his party.

“I think it’s a political thing on his part, and it’s surprising.

What do you think of Zac’s Goldsmith’s announcement that he too will be voting to leave?

“Well I’ve been at hustings with him where he’s been asked this question and he has been fairly clear on what his view is before. But I just don’t think it’s a tenable position for any mayoral candidate to take.

“People in business are fairly agreed on this – that the benefits of being in are much bigger than any benefits of being out. We still have to negotiate with Europe. But [an exit] would cause more confusion and uncertainty for the businesses who already deal with Europe for their prosperity.”

Does it feel funny aligning with businesses, while the Conservative candidate has taken a less business-centred position?

“The EU is of benefit in so many ways, and I’m on the same side as businesses on many issues. On many practical issues [The Green Party] are completely aligned with the needs of businesses.

“We want to have a city that works and where people do have jobs.”

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