What you need to know
'If I can reassure you, and get that into your papers and broadcast media, that is what I am seeking to do here.'
A top U.K. representative is visiting Taiwan trying to sell a positive picture of Britain’s future amid the Brexit crisis.
Lord Mayor of the City of London Jeffrey Mountevans yesterday met with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and other political and business leaders, before briefing media in Taipei.
“My priority, really, is to reassure people: Britain is very much still open for business,” he said in response to a question from The News Lens International. “If I can reassure you, and get that into your papers and broadcast media, that is what I am seeking to do here.”
Mountevans is the highest ranking U.K. official to visit Taiwan's since the change to the Tsai-led government. While his position – like the City of London itself – holds a longstanding and unique place in the British political system, he described the contemporary role as a spokesperson for London’s financial services industry.
As the ongoing uncertainty from the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union continues to dominate headlines around the world, Mountevans largely reiterated the messages the wounded U.K. government has been pushing since the shock referendum result.
That included: saying it would be difficult for another city “to replicate the breadth and depth of London’s offer,” the U.K. would not “turn its back on Europe,” and that there was a long process yet to run.
“I am optimistic as to the outcome of all of this and I think you should all be too,” Mountevans said.
He went as far as saying there are “great opportunities” during times of change.
“This is actually a very good time to invest in the U.K., because with the rate of exchange down, of course, you can buy property 10% cheaper than you could three weeks ago.”
In response to a reporter’s question about several London property funds recently suspending trading – after a flurry of investors tried to withdraw their cash – Mountevans said the move was a “sensible precaution,” and he suggested market watchers should not be “spooked.”
“Some short-term investors maybe felt they wanted to get their money out, because of the uncertainty in the short-term. I think the funds have acted very responsibly, by suspending [withdrawals] for the time being, so as not to prejudice the interest of the medium- and long-term holders of the fund.”
In the wake of Brexit, major international banks, which have long-based their European operations in London, are expected to move some of their staff and offices to E.U. member countries to maintain better market access. Bloomberg yesterday reported that Frankfurt is expecting to see a boost in commercial real-estate prices as the change happens.
Mountevans, however, said that while certain teams in banks may leave London, he did not expect a widespread exodus from the city’s financial sector.
“I think you will quite possibly find additional activities being done in London that were not being done before," he said in response to a question from Bloomberg. "It is a dynamic situation.”
In terms of trade and investment between Taiwan and the U.K., his outlook was equally sanguine. He pointed to the “big potential” in creative industries, and the “real potential” in "fintech."
Mountevans is scheduled to also visit South Korea and Japan in July, and China and Hong Kong in September.
First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole