The mayor of London has urged politicians in the European Union not to "punish" Britain for the decision to leave the EU, stating that a "bad Brexit" would hurt the EU too.
Sadiq Khan's speech in Brussels, given the day before PM Theresa May is due to trigger Article 50 and begin the long process of leaving the EU, also urged the British government to protect the rights of Europeans living and working in the UK.
"There’s no need – as some have suggested – for the EU to send a message – or to instil fear – by punishing the UK," he said, "because a proud, optimistic, and confident institution does not secure its future through fear."
He continued: “My city is not only the beating heart of Britain’s economy, but the single most important organ for growth across Europe. I say this with friendship and all due respect – but a bad Brexit deal that hurts London would hurt the European Union too."
The mayor warned that a bad Brexit deal would deprive Europeans of their only international financial hub, with capital turning to financial hubs in Hong Kong, New York, and Singapore instead.
He said: "The truth is that London will always remain a key partner for Brussels and every European nation long after Brexit is resolved."
However, Khan attempted to strike a broadly optimistic note about the EU. He said that although the EU was in need of reform, Europeans "mustn’t forget the extent to which it’s been a force for good in the world. How much it’s achieved and how it’s transformed the face of Europe. The EU stands as a symbol for how different people – and different nations – are stronger together than they are apart."
Khan also used his speech to urge the prime minister to provide a "cast-iron guarantee" to the roughly 3 million Europeans in the UK, including 1 million in London alone, that they would be able to stay and continue to work following Brexit.
He described the commitment as the "perfect gesture of goodwill – and proof that we still have a common interest as a continent", and urged the EU to provide the same guarantee for British citizens in Europe.
"But I call on the British government to act now even if this is not the case," he said. "Because we’re talking about people’s lives and families – husbands, wives, and children. And that’s too important for us to use as a bargaining chip.”
The London mayor asked for a moment's silence to remember the four people – police officer Keith Palmer, Aysha Frade, Kurt Cochran, and Leslie Rhodes – killed by Khalid Masood outside parliament last week.
“The people of Brussels know all too well what it’s like to suffer from senseless terrorism," he said, adding that the people of Europe stood together against such attacks.
While in Brussels, Khan meet the president of the European parliament, Antonio Tajani, as well as the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.
Tomorrow, May will trigger Article 50, starting the process of negotiating from the European Union.