Britain's banks face
losing EU access after Brexit: Bundesbank chief
Send a link to a friend
[September 19, 2016]
By Huw Jones and Estelle Shirbon
LONDON (Reuters) - Banks based in
Britain will lose access to EU markets after Brexit unless the
country remains in the broader European trading group that includes
nations such as Norway, the head of Germany's Bundesbank warned on
Jens Weidmann, signaling a tough line from Germany on the Brexit
divorce talks to come, said Britain would need to be in the European
Economic Area (EEA) to keep the so-called passporting rights that
allow its banks sell their services across the European Union.
The EEA is the trading club comprising the 28 EU states plus Norway,
Iceland and Liechtenstein, three non-EU nations who can access the
bloc's single market in return for applying its rules and accepting
the free movement of EU citizens.
"Passporting rights are tied to the single market and would
automatically cease to apply if Great Britain is no longer at least
part of the European Economic Area," German central bank chief
Weidmann, who is also on the governing council of the European
Central Bank, said in Britain's Guardian newspaper.
However joining the EEA and accepting free movement of EU citizens
would be politically difficult for Britain. Its government has
pledged to execute Brexit following a vote to leave the European
Union that was driven in part by a desire to curb immigration.
Passporting rights are considered to be an important factor
underpinning London's position as a global financial center. Losing
them would be a blow for a financial services industry that
generates about 12 percent of national economic output.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will not trigger
Article 50 of the EU Treaty to start formal divorce talks with
Brussels before the end of this year, a step that starts a two-year
countdown to actual exit.
Much of the negotiations, when they come, are likely to boil down to
a trade-off between Britain's controls on immigration and its access
to the EU single market.
May faces pressure from some in her government for a "hard" Brexit -
or pulling out of the single market and an end to full passporting
rights and the free movement of EU citizens - which makes EEA
membership a non-starter.
[to top of second column]
Others, such as her finance minister Philip Hammond, as well as the banks
themselves want to maintain access to the single market in some form.
Bundesbank head Weidmann said he expected some London-based businesses to
reconsider the location of their headquarters after Brexit, but he did not see
that turning into a mass movement.
"As a significant financial center and the seat of important regulatory and
supervisory bodies, Frankfurt is attractive and will welcome newcomers. But I
don't expect a mass exodus from London to Frankfurt," he said.
Banks in Britain are the largest borrowers and lenders of euros outside the
single currency area, data from the Bank for International Settlements showed at
the weekend, underlining how much is at stake for Britain's financial industry
if its lenders fail to maintain access to EU markets.
Brussels has said that UK access to the single market would only be in return
for continued free movement of EU citizens to Britain.
"We would reject cherry-picking. You cannot just pick out all of the best items
and have just what suits you," European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker
said at the weekend.
His officials will negotiate new trading terms with Britain and the talks must
"lead to a result where it is clear that it is worth being a member of the EU",
His comments signal a desire to show Britain that quitting the EU must bring
some pain, seen as helping to deter other countries that might seek to leave.
(Editing by Kate Holton and Pravin Char)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.