Boris Johnson must rebuild trust with the City if he becomes the next prime minister on Wednesday, the political leader of the City of London has warned.
Catherine McGuinness, who chairs the corporation’s policy and resources committee, also called on Mr Johnson to be more pragmatic about the impact a no-deal Brexit will have on the entire economy.
Speaking to PA, she said: “Boris will have bridges to build with business. I believe from our experience in the past that, actually, he is quite business minded, but we need to see that in practice after what he said.”
Mr Johnson is alleged to have said “f*** business” when asked by EU diplomats, during his time as foreign secretary, about industry leaders’ concerns over a so-called hard Brexit.
The frontrunner to be the next PM has since said he would leave the EU on October 31 – six months after the original leaving date – with no deal if a deal cannot be reached.
But Ms McGuinness, who has previously worked alongside Mr Johnson during his time as Mayor of London, said a no-deal Brexit would seriously hit the economy and make it harder for people to get loans and open bank accounts.
She said: “I’m very concerned that we’re moving from a joke to a nightmare. From April 1 to Halloween. I am very concerned that the possibility of no deal is increasing, it looks more likely than not at the moment.
“I think warm words are not enough. We really are at a critical moment for our economy, for our country.
“We absolutely will try to be as positive as possible about what we can build on. We need to build on those strengths for the future and we’re ready to do that with Boris but he needs to be practical and pragmatic.”
The City of London is the local authority responsible for the area known as the Square Mile which includes the Bank of England, the London Stock Exchange, and some of the biggest financial institutions in the country.
It is in a unique position because the vast majority of its constituents are businesses rather than residents.
The taxes generated in the City are around £75 billion a year but, since the financial crisis of 2008, bankers have been roundly criticised for excessive bonuses and being too far removed from the everyday struggles of ordinary citizens.
Ms Guinness admitted that more needed to be done to improve the image of the City.
She said: “People see the temples of mammon and don’t see what it’s doing for the actual economy.
“That is a challenge. And it’s a challenge we ask ourselves daily. We keep telling people how much [the tax take from the City] would cover the NHS, but that doesn’t quite bring home to people what it means for their daily lives.
“You can visualise a fisherman and you can visualise goods being trundled across the border.
“It’s much more difficult to see the good that’s been done for our economy from, for example, a lawyer that’s given advice overseas that’s generating an income which he or she is then spending in our economy.”
It is feared the City of London Corporation may find this even more challenging as the gulf between the capital and the rest of the country widens and the realities of leaving the EU become even more visible.