Brexit: Sadiq Khan declares ‘EU citizens are Londoners’ at launch of English National Ballet’s new HQ

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. P

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

Sadiq Khan has used the launch of the English National Ballet’s new rehearsal studio complex in the heart of the East End to declare EU citizens as “Londoners” in the face of Parliament’s shut down over Brexit.

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. P

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

The mayor of London openly welcomed EU citizens and threw down the gauntlet to critics over his backing for creative industries which put £52billion into the economy.

"Those EU citizens who feel anxious and scared (over Brexit) are welcome here as Londoners," he said.

"London is great because of the contribution EU citizens make—they are Londoners too, and they'll always be welcome.

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. P

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

"We are global, where anyone can come and make London their home."


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He declared London an 'open city' to a VIPs audience last night who packed the auditorium at the new London City Island skyscraper complex at Leamouth, on the banks of the Lea River, although not making direct reference to Brexit by name.

He was given several minutes' ovation from the audience that included Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick, whose Parliamentary constituency includes the new HQ and who is one of the 650 MPs effectively locked out of the House of Commons.

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. P

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

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Mayor Khan went on to defended his funding for the arts, having put £1m towards the new complex from City Hall's Good Growth fund.

"My opponents criticise me for championing creative industries as one of my priorities," he admitted.

"But the funding will generate new jobs and skills programmes with more apprenticeships and opportunities for thousands of people over the next three years, at a time when we need it most.

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. P

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

"London's booming, creative economy already provides one-in-six jobs and puts £52bn into the nation's economy."

English National's relocation to east London was showing that "cultural gems aren't limited to Zone 1 Central London", he insisted. London was open to international talent from across the world.

The ballet company's chairman Sir Roger Carr spoke of the new HQ as "the springboard" for its future in east London away from the West End.

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. P

Leyana Baltaji and her dad Luay at the opening of English National Ballet's new production studio. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

Sir Roger added: "The mayor's support means a lot for our vision for this new building becoming a reality, here in the heart of east London, which is important for the area."

The 93,000-sq ft complex replaces the cramped labyrinth of rehearsal rooms the ballet company has had to put up with in Kensington since its founding in 1951 after the Festival of Britain. Their Victorian building next to the Royal Albert Hall was sold for £5m which went towards funding the new HQ at Leamouth which gives the space to develop world-class artists and create new works pushing the artistic boundaries of ballet.

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