The wider UK population has little sympathy for the denizens of the City – often if unfairly portrayed as the undeserving rich with fabulous bonuses and a Maserati-Armani culture far removed from their fellow citizens.
That is unfair on the 99 per cent of City workers who just work hard and whose output contributes massively to the UK’s tax revenues, which in turn are used to pay for public services that help scores of millions of British citizens who never step foot in London.
But it is hard not to agree that the City is being left in the dark as the Government refuses to publish its proposals on what it will ask from Brussels as part of the next round of talks on Brexit.
The City of London Corporation’s policy chief, Catherine McGuinness, says “the City has been left in the dark” while other sectors “have been given this clarity.”
Ms McGuinness is being charitable. The food, pharmaceutical, chemical, road haulage, higher education, and aviation industries still have no idea what the rules will be in October when the Brexit Article 50 talks have to end to allow any agreement to be examined and agreed by EU27 governments and the European Parliament.
The real problem lies inside the UK as the Government is operating without any real pressure to deliver a Brexit that does not damage the UK economy. Both the Conservative and Labour Parties are committed to leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union. Outside either or both, the economy as well as the peace settlement in Northern Ireland can only come under negative pressures.
The hope in the City is that by sending its envoys to EU capitals more can be achieved than British government officials or diplomats as well as the unending missions by UK ministers from the Prime Minister downwards to make speeches in every European city have been able to obtain so far.
But is the City seeing the problem the wrong way round? It is not negotiating with Paris, Berlin, or Rome that matters but negotiating with the British people and their representatives in Parliament to explain that the hard Brexit which is now the main offer on the agenda is fraught with dangers.
No City firm knows for sure whether the current market access they enjoy will be available into the 2020s. They are caught in a Catch-22. No firm wants to relocate to keep Single Market access if it is possible that the UK decides to limit Brexit to leaving the political EU of electing MEPS, nominating a Commissioner, and participating in EU Council meetings, but otherwise maintaining full economic and trade access.
But unless firms do publicly threaten to move and raise other concerns then public opinion won’t change and there will no no pressure on MPs to quietly urge Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to prevent an amputational Brexit.
Too many firms are complaining but not campaigning outside of London in a measured and responsible way to express their concerns to a wider public and MPs. The City needs to send envoys to England outside the M25, not European capitals.
Denis MacShane is a former Minister for Europe and a Senior Advisor at Avisa Partners.