When the U.K. voted in a June referendum to leave the European Union, many American entrepreneurs worried over the negative impact it would have on their businesses. But London mayor Sadiq Khan isn't concerned. He insists that the British capital will remain open as an access point to the broader European market.
"Many of you are thinking post-Brexit, will London somehow stop being open-minded, outward looking? The short answer is 'No,'" Khan said, speaking at a technology conference in New York City on Monday.
To his point, London is still the No. 1 destination for U.S. tech executives looking to set up a European branch, according to a survey--compiled by the city's official promoter--of 200 executives. The data also showed that U.K. companies attracted more than $500 million in U.S. investments since the referendum vote.
At the same time, many financial businesses are now seeking offices elsewhere (i.e., in Germany and France) as analysts expect that "passporting" rights--which allow companies to offer services throughout the E.U. from Britain--might soon disappear.
"The biggest concern is that the U.K. would not be able to replicate the kinds of trade deals it currently enjoys with third-parties [the U.S., China and India]," said Geoffrey Heal, a professor of social enterprise at Columbia Business School, in a previous interview with Inc. "It will take a long time for this to be resolved."
As the first Muslim to lead a major Western capital, and a former human rights lawyer, Khan said that technological progress will continue -- precisely because we're now embracing our differences. "I genuinely think that the advances we've seen in technology over the last 10 years, which are greater than the last 100 years are nothing," he said. "Because for the first time in history, we're forming friendships with people we'd never meet. We are starting businesses with people we'll never meet. We sometimes fall in love with people we haven't met yet. But that's the joy of technology, and you [business owners] are using it in a positive way."
The event, which took place at a WeWork in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, had a somber air. Both Khan and WeWork's co-founder, Adam Neumann, lamented a recent bombing of the area, where 29 people were injured on West 23rd street on Saturday evening.
"The world is, at the moment, full of uncertainties," Khan continued, nodding to the upcoming U.S. presidential election, as well as elections in France and Germany. "One thing I am certain of is London is open," he added. "London will always be open. And London and New York will always be very close, as will other great cities of the world."