Securing UK Borders in light of Brexit

London First launched its second report in a series on ‘Securing UK Borders’ at a breakfast briefing on 7 June.

The report, sponsored by UBM, has been compiled by London First Director of Security and Resilience, Robert Hall, in collaboration with a team of external experts. It provides timely and critical insights on the security implications of leaving the EU for UK border management.

Recommendations will support senior executives across both the public and private sectors as they navigate the security implications of Brexit.

Five key recommendations are outlined:

  • Border security should be (re)designed in response to, and proportionate to, foreseen international threats.
  • Effective border security should not be undermined by becoming a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations.
  • Every effort should be made to preserve access to key EU databases so as to allow law enforcement and police the means to conduct their investigations for the benefit of all Europeans.
  • Adequate resources should be made available to fund the UK Border Force to levels that permit its effective operation in post-Brexit Britain.
  • The question of how to establish identity must be revisited.

The report will also feature at a presentation at the IFSEC2017 Exhibition at Excel, 20-22 June.

We would like to thank the authors for their contributions to the report, and their insights at the launch event:

Alison Wakefield PhD, Senior Lecturer in Security Risk Management, University of Portsmouth Claire Bradley, European Law Monitor CIC,  Joe Connell, Director, Praemunitus Ltd Intelligence & Risk Consultants and Chairman, Association of Security Consultants,  John Vine CBE QPM, former Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

The report can be accessed in full here.

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The Battle for No. 10 – over before it began?

John Lehal, CEO, Four Public Affairs

There is just over a week to go before the general election but the battle for Number 10 is over. I write, of course, about Bank Holiday Monday’s televised almost-debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. While Channel 4 and Sky News between them couldn’t convince the two leaders to appear on screen at the same time, they at least managed to get both of them to the same studio. What did we learn, and how will it change a contest that has finally seen the polls start to narrow?

Midway through a campaign that was explicitly called to provide a personal endorsement for Theresa May, many voters still feel unsure about both candidates for Prime Minister. Monday night’s debate was a chance for Theresa May to prove to the voters that she can still offer “strong and stable” leadership despite a fortnight of u-turns and missteps. The Labour leadership, meanwhile, has long suggested that voters would come around to Jeremy Corbyn if they just got the chance to get to know him and his policy programme.

It was a challenging few hours for both sides. Corbyn went first and faced a grilling from both the audience and a fiery Jeremy Paxman about his past views on everything from Irish republicanism to the fate of the Monarchy. Theresa May faced a sceptical audience who had questions on her ever-changing plans to fund social care and, a week after the tragic events in Manchester, what her role had been in cuts to the Police during her time as Home Secretary.

Overall, both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition will be happy with their performances. Corbyn was perhaps the winner – on a split decision – but his surprisingly assured performance has to be judged against a set of considerably low expectations. May, meanwhile, came through unscathed. Her lines about being a “difficult woman” ready to talk tough on Brexit will resonate with the former UKIP voters she hopes to win over.

From here, both leaders will seek to play to their strengths – Theresa May articulating she is best to negotiate Brexit for Britain; Corbyn that his policies can create a fairer Britain.  The Prime Minister will play it safe and limit her media exposure to one speech a day in front of hand-picked party activists; the Labour Leader will continue to project himself as the insurgent under-dog.

But will the contest change as a result? The answer is probably “no”. Less than 3 million people tuned in the Battle for Number 10 compared to almost 9 million for Britain’s Got Talent at the same time. When they tell the story of the 2017 election, it will still most likely say this TV shouting match was just a speedbump on May’s journey back to power rather than a Corbyn-shaped hole in the road.

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Report calls for new ways of delivering residential density in London

A report from GIA and London First has called for supplementary guidance on the daylight and sunlight levels that new residential developments are expected to receive, specific to the needs of an urban environment.

Current national guidelines, published by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), fail to clearly distinguish between city centre and suburban environments. As a result, many Local Planning Authorities are adopting a “one size fits all” approach and potentially holding back different ways of developing in central London.

The report argues that London needs to make better use of its existing land and develop at higher densities to start building the number of homes the city needs. Developing specific guidance for urban areas would help Local Planning Authorities make informed decisions, enabling developers to innovate and build at greater density while ensuring good levels of light are delivered into their buildings.

The report’s recommendations include:
· New ‘daylight and sunlight’ guidance for urban areas should include a measure of the land being built upon relative to the available open space.
· The benefits of varied street widths and the use of different building types at varying scales should be considered.
· Varied floor to ceiling heights and the reintroduction of bay windows should be taken into account.

Simone Pagani, Senior Partner at GIA explains: “Applying the BRE Guidance correctly means applying it contextually, fundamentally recognising that the driver for homes in central London and town centre locations are different to those in suburban areas. It should be a design aid rather than a constraint, informing the appropriate levels of light for a site’s urban grain, feel and aspirations.”

John Dickie, director of strategy and policy at London First, said: “Some of London’s most recognisable streets, in Shoreditch, Covent Garden or Chelsea, wouldn’t comply with current national guidance on these requirements. Making better use of existing land will be an important part of reaching London’s goal of building 50,000 new homes each year and developing ‘daylight and sunlight’ guidelines that are relevant to city centre living, which is inevitably at greater density than suburban areas, is long overdue.”

The full report, ‘Guiding Light: Unlocking London’s residential density’ is available here.

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The party positions on business priorities

The UK’s three biggest parties have now published their manifestos, outlining their positions on London First’s priorities to keep our capital globally competitive.

All three parties have recognised the importance of boosting skills to driving growth across the UK.

  • The Conservatives have committed to putting skills at the heart of their industrial strategy.
  • The Liberal Democrats aim to double the number of businesses that hire apprentices and plug gaps in basic competencies needed, such as numeracy, literacy and digital skills, by 2030.
  • Labour has pledged to devolve responsibility for skills and work with devolved administrations to improve the operation of the apprenticeship levy.

As the new government sets the steer for this country’s future, it must proactively engage with business to ensure that skills gaps are plugged and employers can continue to access the talent needed for a strong economy. Business is committed to playing a full role in developing the skills of its workforce, and our Employment and Skills Commission will provide a strong business voice to establish a skills strategy for our capital.

Access to global talent is equally important, and as the next government takes back control of immigration, it must ensure that sectors retain this access to continue to compete on a global scale.

  • The Conservatives would seek recommendations from the independent Migration Advisory Committee on strategically aligning the UK’s visa system with its industrial strategy without adding to net migration.
  • Similarly, Labour would work with businesses and other partners to set out a new system enabling migrants to fill skills shortages in line with the economy’s needs.
  • The Liberal Democrats would reinstate post-study work visas for STEM graduates, also granting devolved administrations the powers to sponsor additional post-study work visas.

The UK as a whole, and London in particular, are facing a housing crisis and urgently need more homes. Each party has shown commitment to building more homes; another step in the right direction. London First’s manifesto sets out how to deliver the homes our capital so badly needs. The new government should as a matter of priority take the brakes off London boroughs investing in home building, work with the mayor to release public land for development, help housing associations to build more homes, and invest in transport infrastructure to unlock land for housing development.

Each party has pledged to deliver vital infrastructure projects. London has already committed to funding half of the cost of Crossrail 2, which, as well as providing essential transport capacity, could unlock 200,000 new homes. The new government must commit to introducing a Crossrail 2 Bill as quickly as possible, allowing construction to begin in the early 2020s and be open in the early 2030s.

If our next government pushed the delivery of economic growth to devolved institutions, it could give cities and regions the powers and resources to make the right decisions and drive investment and growth. London First will continue to work with organisations around the UK to make the case for devolution and push for a commitment to Crossrail 2.

Business is poised to step up and work with the new government. Over the next three weeks, we will continue to amplify our three priorities set out in our manifesto and get ready to engage from 9 June.

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Housing at the heart of the manifestos

Guest blog from David Talbot, Director, FTI Consulting Public Affairs

The housing crisis is so daunting in scale, and possible solutions so politically fraught, that historically politicians of all parties have not dared truly tackle it. Policies have tended to tinker at the edges of the issue, and sometimes inadvertently entrench the gap, for instance, the government’s Lifetime ISA which hands £1,000 a year to would-be buyers – if, that is, they already have £4,000 of their own.

As is already well known, the real problem is supply. In 2016, the number of affordable homes built slumped to a 24-year low. There are renewed calls for 3 million new homes in a decade, a third of them commissioned by the public sector. Smarter homes would help too: not just for first-time but also ‘last-time’ buyers, with the kind of accessible, attractive smaller retirement units that could encourage older people otherwise reluctant to downsize, and which would also immediately free up millions of households back on to the property ladder.

There are more than a million people on housing waiting lists in England, while more than 6 million face tenure insecurity with no prospect of ever buying their own home. Parties have been alarmingly slow to address the needs of those not already firmly established on the ladder – though Ed Miliband certainly tried during his Labour leadership – but even the Conservatives are now paying lip service to at least some of them.

This bleak news is striking, but unsurprising. The reality may not match the rhetoric, but it is still encouraging that housing pledges are set to be the centrepieces of both the Labour and Conservative manifestos. Labour wants to build at least a million more homes over the next five years, with half of them council houses, as well as provide a charter of private tenants’ rights. Its pledge to link HS2 with other rail investments, such as Crossrail of the North, could also unlock thousands of new homes along its route. And Theresa May, in a foretaste of the pending Conservative manifesto, launched an audacious bid to woo Labour voters by putting plans for a new generation of council homes for the working classes at the heart of her programme for government.

This positivity is further strengthened by a batch of Select Committee reports released just before the election, which detailed useful markers for future housing policy. The underwhelming Housing White Paper will still be in play post general election, with the added benefit of additional time to beef it up before it returns to Parliament. And, with Gavin Barwell and John Healey currently in the Housing and Shadow Housing portfolios respectively, the sector has its two best advocates in years.

For years politicians have relied on merely slowing down the rate at which the housing crisis gets worse. The emerging cross-party consensus may at last alleviate this.

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