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5/6/16

Brexit: London Mayor Elections 2016: Amid Tight Brexit Polls, Pro-EU Sadiq Khan Poised For Victory

With the referendum on the U.K. leaving the EU looming June 23, a so-called Brexit has become a prominent topic of debate leading up to the London mayoral election, in which Khan is facing off against pro-leave politician Zac Goldsmith to become the leader of the nation’s capital.

While the London mayor exhibits limited power over the outcome of the referendum, a pro-Brexit mayor would have been seen as a symbolic defeat both for the Prime Minister David Cameron and for his entire pro-EU campaign, experts said. London has historically been heavily integrated into the EU financial and political system as well as statistically anti-Brexit.

“It’s crucial [for the EU campaign] that Goldsmith won’t be winning,” said Charles Lichfield, an EU analyst for risk consultancy Eurasia, saying Khan’s win is “certainly not something that the pro-Brexiters could use.”

Nearly 60 percent of Londoners who responded to a recent YouGov poll said they supported the U.K. staying in the EU. London has long been considered not only an international capital but a European one where EU nationals from across the continent live, work and study. With the London stock exchange and a thriving financial services sector, the capital is a financial hub that facilitates trade within the EU and beyond, and many citizens have expressed fear the city would lose some of its status and economic standing.

The debate over a Brexit centers on national sovereignty, security and economic strength. Supporters of the U.K. leaving the EU say the country would be better able to control its national borders without constraints from the EU while maintaining London would keep its economic prowess with or without the EU trading bloc. Proponents of staying in the EU argue the country’s membership is part of what has contributed to security and a thriving economy. The margin between the two camps has remained tight in the weeks leading up to the June vote, and the latest results from the Financial Times’ Brexit poll tracker — which takes the average of recent polling data — put support for remaining in the EU at 46 percent, and support for leaving at 43 percent.

If Goldsmith wins — a seemingly unlikely possibility as Khan was leading according to the most recent polling information — pro-Brexit campaigners would have been able to point to London as a symbol of the necessity for a Brexit, arguing if the European hub could recognize the necessity of leaving Europe, then everyone could, Lichfield explained.

Current London Mayor Boris Johnson came out in favor of a Brexit in February, going against the stance both of his Conservative Party and of the prime minister, a close political ally. A pro-Europe London mayor such as Khan would complete a pro-European trifecta of the prime minister, the London mayor and the chancellor of the exchequer — three of the most powerful positions in the U.K., all lobbying for the U.K. to stay in the EU.

Read more: London Mayor Elections 2016: Amid Tight Brexit Polls, Pro-EU Sadiq Khan Poised For Victory

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