Rabina Khan: What we must do five years on from Brexit referendum

Canary Wharf... east London's financial hub

Canary Wharf... east London's financial hub - Credit: CWG

Five years on from the Brexit referendum, Tower Hamlets councillor Rabina Khan (Shadwell, Liberal Democrats) asks if investment in life sciences in Canary Wharf could provide hope for Britain’s economic, social and green sustainability:

Walking through the streets, it is easy to imagine there is no difference with how Tower Hamlets is dealing with the reality of the European divorce five years on from the Brexit referendum.

But many problems are hidden, like the shopkeeper in Roman Road who has been suffering severe delays importing goods from Germany.

Cllr Rabina Khan & Special Advisor (Liberal Democrats), Shadwell, London Borough of Tower Hamlets 

Cllr Rabina Khan & Special Advisor (Liberal Democrats), Shadwell, London Borough of Tower Hamlets - Credit: Khan

Before Brexit, this was almost seamless. Now there is added paperwork, more fees and more delays. 

This business, like many, is now having to reconsider where they source their goods from — and the choices are limited. 


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At the other end of the scale, Brexit poses significant risks to financial services, which account for 46 per cent of the economic value generated in Tower Hamlets.

Most of this activity is in Canary Wharf, an international employment hub for financial and other services. The real effects will only now become apparent. 

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A parcel of land at the north end was originally earmarked as the new home of Deutsche Bank — which has decided to remain in the City of London. 

The plan now is for the land to be used for a life sciences cluster, according to a Bloomberg report.

This should be a perfect fit with the government’s effort to steer the post-Brexit economy into new and fast-growing knowledge industries. 

The departure of the European Medicines Agency to Amsterdam in 2019 was a direct result of Brexit. We need to think big to attract similar size organisations. 

A national life sciences agency would allow Canary Wharf to provide companies with already-established support services and provide new jobs. 

The only up-side of the Covid pandemic is the awareness of the UK’s world-class medical technology. 

Let’s hope we can harness this to fill one of the gaps left by Brexit. 

The investment in life sciences can provide hope for Britain’s economic, social and green sustainability. 

Barts Health NHS Trust has one of the richest databases in Europe because of the population diversity of Tower Hamlets, which would be the perfect place for the UK’s new science research centre to be located and would replace the European Medicines Agency.   

It would bring in investment and boost the economy for companies, businesses, banks, the property sector — and the people of the East End.   


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