June 11, 2018 / 4:22 PM / 9 days ago

Interview: Mayor Khan says booming tech sector to help London through Brexit

LONDON (Reuters) - London’s status as Europe’s leading hub for the tech sector will help it weather Brexit despite the best efforts of Paris, Berlin and others to compete, the British capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan said on Monday.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan arrives for a meeting with European Parliament (EP) President Antonio Tajani at the EP headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Britain has for years been the top European destination for foreign investment, but a survey by accountancy group Ernst & Young (E&Y) on Monday showed Germany and France closing the gap.

According to 450 global investors surveyed by E&Y, Germany was considered the most attractive place in Europe for future investment, with France second and Britain third. Paris was named the most attractive city for investment, overtaking London for the first time since the survey began in 2004.

But Khan said investments in London’s tech sector, from the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Google, plus the city’s strength in new technologies including artificial intelligence, gave him hope that London would keep on attracting entrepreneurs and funding from around the world.

“Berlin and Paris start from a low base, and frankly speaking can only go one way,” Khan told Reuters on Monday at the London Tech Week conference.

“London is different to the rest of the UK. Our underlying strengths - we’re the financial capital of the country, the cultural and political capital - that’s not going to change.”

Britain is due to exit the European Union on March 29, 2019 but with a transition period to ease the process.

A survey released last week by London’s promotional agency showed Britain remains the leading European destination for international tech investors, attracting almost three times more venture capital investment than any other European country over the past two years.

UNCERTAINTY

But Khan, who campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU, said he worried about the rest of the country and whether it could attract foreign investment at a time of such uncertainty.

Campaigners for remaining in the EU warned before the referendum that investment in Britain would fall if it voted to leave the world’s biggest trade bloc.

While some international finance jobs have moved to Europe, Khan said investment in new technologies gave him faith for the future.

But Khan added that he would continue to hold tech companies to a high standard, demanding that social media groups take responsibility for the content that appears on their site.

Khan has also previously backed transport officials in their move to strip the ride-hailing company Uber of its licence.

“Social media companies ...need to do more,” he said. “They need to make sure that they themselves take responsibility for these problems rather than regulation being imposed on them.”

Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Gareth Jones

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