British Bankers Take Grievances of Single Market to Europe
Banks with large London operations say they will step up lobbying European officials because they are running out of arguments to convince the British government the industry needs single-market access after Britain leaves the EU.
Banks have focused on pressuring British officials to push for as much market access as possible since voters decided seven months ago to leave the EU. They held fewer meetings with European officials, according to several senior sources in the financial services industry, Reuters reported.
The focus is shifting because after scores of meetings and research reports, banks, which say they may begin moving staff and operations out of London in the next few months if there is no clarity, feel they are running out of new points to make.
Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday she was not interested in Britain keeping “bits” of its EU membership, interpreted by some as signaling she will favor immigration controls over access to the single market.
Banks are now planning a new round of lobbying to highlight how a hard Brexit could harm the EU and the UK. They have identified French politicians, EU regulators and government officials, as key groups to win over.
“The battle for Britain is over, the battle for France is about to begin,” said one senior lobbyist.
Another senior lobbyist for one of the major global banks said he will spend more time in Brussels this year to target the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his teams as well as Didier Seeuws, a Belgian diplomat, who is helping coordinate the Brexit negotiations.
Another lobbyist said he is planning to visit Paris to meet with French politicians and regulators later this month.
Britain’s position as Europe’s financial center is emerging as one of the main collision points in the Brexit talks. Some European politicians see an opportunity to challenge British dominance of finance after decades of viewing its free-wheeling “Anglo-Saxon” model of capitalism with suspicion.
EU leaders like French President Francois Hollande have said they plan to weaken Britain’s grip on finance by, for instance, demanding the lucrative business of clearing euros should move to the eurozone.
UK-based banks had total outstanding loans of more than £1.1 trillion ($1.34 trillion) to European companies and governments at the start of 2016.