Content Block


I set up the petition for London's independence. Here's how it would work


It's crazy, but it's not that crazy

We all knew that a Brexit vote would unleash forces we didn’t understand – a series of rolling crises in high finance, macro-economics, politics and diplomacy. But one thing I personally didn’t anticipate was that I’d accidentally end up as the de-facto leader of a secessionist movement.

As the final result came obvious, I was hugely disappointed. It appears that the country I live in thinks wildly differently to me. I’m a smug, bourgeois liberal who lives in North London – so the result felt like a powerful rejection of my entire worldview. Despondent, I decided there was only one thing for it: I needed to start a petition.

So I fired up and demanded that given Britain had just rejected a cosmopolitan, outward facing world, London should reject Britain: We should demand independence – or Londependence – for our city. We should join the rest of the world, even if the rest of the UK doesn’t want to.

And amazingly, the petition has now received over 160,000 signatures. So I’m pretty sure that it is definitely 100 per cent going to work.

The Case for Independence

There is actually a credible case for independence. Singapore, Hong Kong and Monaco all prove that cities can exist on their own. There is historical credibility too – in feudal times free cities were outside of the control of regional barons, and were bastions cosmopolitanism and free thinking – where new idea and new inventions were born. London is like this today.

If we’ve learned anything from the referendum, and from elections over the last few years it is that London is a wildly different place to much of the rest of the country. It has different values, and if election results are anything to go by, it wants to do things a different way. Heck, it’s the sort of city where Jeremy Corbyn’s far-left politics are wildly popular. In essence, London is a distinct community compared to most of the rest of the country – so why can’t we divorce?

"I’ve put about as much thought into this as the Leave campaign in the EU referendum did into their position"

There’s recent political precedent too. When Kosovo controversially declared independence from Serbia, it wasn’t on the usual basis that historically there had been an independent state there – but on the basis that it was a separate community and that in itself justified it. When this claim was judged legitimate by the weight of opinion in the international system, as many countries lined up to recognise independent Kosovo, it set a new precedent. And yes, this precedent has had some negative outcomes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use it for good too, and legitimate London as a positive, welcoming new country.

The Challenges

Obviously creating an independent London would not be without its challenges. People have suggested to me since that I haven’t really thought it through – what about passports, what about our economy that is linked to the rest of Britain, and so on. But my response to that is that I’ve put about as much thought into this as the Leave campaign in the EU referendum did into their position. The Institute of Fiscal Studies and the Bank of England haven’t weighed in on whether an independent London would be able to stand on its own 16 million feet – but the Leave campaign proved that you don’t need experts to weigh in before you make big decisions.

I’m confident that the rest of Britain will be able to do a deal with London. And I’m sure that an independent London, which values freedom of movement and being welcoming to outsiders wouldn’t want to screw those left in the rest of the country: We understand that the reason many people voted Leave is because they are hurt by the current political settlement. We’re more interested in welcoming Britons to join us, if they too want a country that doesn’t blame outsiders for the political choices of its leaders.

Sure, it may seem like a remote possibility at the moment – but two years ago, Britain actually leaving the EU would have sounded crazy. As we now prepare to wave goodbye to Scotland, Gibraltar and perhaps even Northern Ireland, perhaps Britain should also prepare for London to cut itself loose too?

James O’Malley is Interim Editor of Gizmodo UK