The Brexit situation in the UK has become an all-out mess. As a result it’s still entirely unclear how it’s all going to turn out, and more and more people are starting to discuss the idea of a new referendum that could reverse the Brexit decision altogether. In the meantime though, it’s become clear that the independence of a post-Brexit London is one of the things people are most curious about.
Some “Brexiters,” for instance, have apparently been considering the idea that London could become Singapore-on-Thames, or something close to it. The thinking among these people appears to be a simple comparison, linking the former British colony-turned-city-state to a future London free of the EU. The idea is that if Singapore is thriving as an international business and tourism destination without being part of the UK’s extended territory, so might London thrive if it’s freed of the EU’s shackles. The implication within this comparison appears to be that Brexit could actually turn London into a more appealing destination or travel stop for people not of the UK (which may just be a convenient hedge against allegations of xenophobia among Brexiters).
Others analyzing the potential impact of Brexit on a more independent London have taken a more openly hostile (and some would say racist or xenophobic) stance. This is to “warn,” as an article in The Independent phrased it, that London could become a casino city for Arab sheiks and Russian oligarchs in the aftermath of Brexit. These appear to be somewhat random examples based on the idea that “managed immigration” could be used to make London appeal to wealthier immigrants, but the idea still comes across as somewhat paranoid, and certainly paints foreign figures of influence in a negative light. While it is wholly possible that there’s a version of Brexit out there after which this sort of “managed immigration” would take place, the description of a hypothetical casino town for sheiks and oligarchs appears to border on fearmongering.
Oddly, both of the above ideas are essentially getting at the same thing in different ways: the concept of a post-Brexit London that would welcome lots of international business to luxury properties and attractions, both existing and new. Clearly, as noted, there are some problematic undertones to how this concept is being discussed. But it is worth wondering if there might in fact be any difference in how a post-Brexit London would look in this regard.
Regarding the idea of London becoming some kind of “casino town” – really an odd notion given that neither Russia nor prominent Arab nations and cities are known for casinos – it’s hard to imagine much of a difference taking place. Currently in the UK, it’s said that there are millions of mobile players who have discovered the thrill and convenience of digital casino gaming, meaning that if anything the business in the casino realm is trending toward the internet. The casinos that London does have remain popular, but they’re not particularly exclusive, and it’s hard to imagine any mass influx of high-roller immigrant activity among them.
As for luxury properties – the types that come to mind when you imagine a version of post-Brexit London that resembles Singapore – there really wouldn’t be a massive change even if wealthy immigrants took up some ownership positions or frequented hotels and related businesses. The true luxury properties in London are already fairly exclusive, meaning that any related business owners or patrons – British, immigrant, or otherwise – already tend to come from fairly strong financial standing. This is to say there may not be much room for “new money” to come in, nor would there necessarily be a specific incentive for a wealthy class from any particular country to move in and do business.
None of this is to suggest that there wouldn’t be major changes in London or its businesses following a Brexit. Nor does it mean that there might not be some specific shifts in ownership or patronage relevant to the Arab community or any particular immigrant population in London. But right now any projection of some sweeping, specific change appears more paranoid than fact- or analysis-based. The biggest difference in luxury properties and culture around London following a Brexit may ultimately be how Arabs and other people of non-British descent are treated or looked upon.