In the back room of a pub in central London, Rory Stewart and I led a discussion among various think-tank and media figures. The topic: "Resolved: London should secede from the UK." The year was 2012. As Britain officially exits the EU, some clearly feel euphoria, others relief. But anxiety should remain the order of the day.
The country remains in uncharted territory, and slogans such as "This is GREAT Britain" won't be enough to keep the United Kingdom from becoming a devolved kingdom as Scotland and Ireland weigh their options in order to stay within the EU. Londoners will shoulder ever more of the economic burden for propping up England, despite voting against Brexit. Buyer's remorse would be well justified.
I am one of those who still believe that London is the greatest city in the world, but having relocated from London to Singapore, I can attest that London is not "Singapore on the Thames." Singapore's civil service built on the tradition it inherited from British colonialism, while in the UK, trust in government has fallen as the civil service has been bypassed by flailing politicians. Singapore's government spends heavily on education, public housing, and innovation, and capital investment is more than 30% of GDP (about twice the level of the UK).
I was pleased to have met Jeremy Hunt when he visited Singapore during his brief tenure as foreign secretary. We agreed that the UK has taken its global position for granted, and now will have to make huge efforts to build new regional and global ties, from services trade agreements to attracting more Asian students.