Paris, London mayors pledge to work 'closer than ever' despite Brexit

Justin Tallis, AFP | Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo (L) and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan meet at St Pancras Station in London on May 10, 2016

The mayors of Paris and London have penned a joint letter published Monday in Le Parisien and the Financial Times calling on the two “global cities” to “work more closely together than ever” despite Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.


Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and her London counterpart, Sadiq Khan, said they were committed to forging stronger alliances in short statements published on Monday, four days after the UK opted to quit the EU in a historic referendum.

“There is so much that unites our two great cities,” Hidalgo and Kahn wrote. “Despite the outcome of the EU referendum, our two cities must now work more closely together than ever before in order to deliver on our shared agendas.”

Hidalgo and Khan, who passionately campaigned to keep the UK in the EU, argued that cities will have an increasingly prominent role to play on vital issues such as the economy and the fight against climate change, pledging to present a united front against these shared challenges.

“Together, we can act as a powerful counterweight to the lethargy of nation states and to the influence of industrial lobbies. Together, we can and will shape the century ahead,” the mayors said.

The collaborative spirit of the letter marked a break with the recent past, when the two cities have been pitted as bitter competitors.

Paris saw its Olympic ambitions destroyed in 2005 as London claimed the right to host the Games seven years later, and in 2012 British Prime Minister David Cameron said London was ready to “roll out the red carpet” for French businesses overburdened with taxes.

‘Feel at home’

Both the children of working-class immigrant families, Hidalgo and Kahn have made a name for themselves as trailblazer mayors on either side of the English Channel.

Born in southern Spain as Ana Hidalgo, the Paris mayor moved to the French city of Lyon with her family when she was 2 years old and became a French citizen at 14. A Socialist, she became the first female mayor of Paris in 2014 after serving as deputy mayor for 13 years.

Announcing the joint letter on her Facebook page on Monday, Hidalgo referred to Kahn as “my friend”.

Khan made headlines in May by becoming London’s first Muslim mayor. The son of Pakistani immigrants, he frequently cited his modest upbringing during the race for the capital’s top job.

During the EU referendum campaign he was a leading voice for the “Remain” camp, famously accusing his predecessor Boris Johnson and others of turning the ballot into “project hate” in a widely viewed television debate.

“In cities we celebrate our diversity and see our differences as a great source of strength,” the mayors wrote, in an apparent reference to the concerns over immigrants and refugees that were stoked by “Leave” partisans.

“Our cities are places where everyone, whatever their backgrounds, can feel at home.”

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