London banks to lobby Brussels

Banks with large London operations say they will step up their lobbying of European officials, because they are running out of arguments to convince the British government that the industry needs single-market access.
London banks to lobby Brussels

Banks have focussed on pressuring British officials to push for as much market access as possible, since Britain’s 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.

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 about Brexit, feel they are running out of new points to make.

UK prime minister, Theresa May, said on Sunday she was not interested in Britain keeping “bits” of its EU membership, which was interpreted by some as a signal that she will favour 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 centre is 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, such as French president, François Hollande, have said they plan to weaken Britain’s grip on finance by, for instance, demanding that the lucrative business of clearing euros moves to the eurozone.

Finance is Britain’s most important industry, accounting for about a tenth of its economic output and is its biggest source of business tax revenue.

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