U.K. Plans Sweeping Markets Review to Give London a Brexit Edge

The U.K. is preparing a wide-ranging review of financial markets to defend the City of London’s global pre-eminence after Brexit.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen said the government isn’t going to stop after overhauling rules covering initial public offerings and fintech firms. It is also preparing to consult businesses on “detailed proposals for wider reform to the capital markets” in the summer, he said on Wednesday.

The review will look at changes to market structure, transparency rules, as well as commodities, the minister said. The aim is to reduce costs and burdens for firms while maintaining high standards of regulation, he added.

In a signal that nothing is off limits, Glen said he wants the project to be “as broad and as inclusive as possible so that we really look at everything.”

The review could lead to one of the biggest shake-ups of U.K. financial markets in decades. Glen emphasized that any changes will be to minimize the burden on market participants, but “without undermining the high standards and the integrity of our market and our market reputation.”

The changes are aimed at protecting an industry that accounts for about 7% of the economy and around a tenth of tax receipts, and which has suffered because of the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union. The City lost its crown this year as the top place in Europe to buy and sell shares, and the bloc is pressing firms to shift more trading and senior deal makers to EU locations.

Glen said in recent months he’s met with about 50 chief executive officers of banks, insurers and fintech companies, and that they’re seeking “nimble evolution,” rather than “revolution.”

“What I’m not detecting is any appetite for revolutionary deregulation, because that doesn’t enhance the integrity of the reputation of the City,” he said. “There’s no question of us seeking to derive economic gains from deregulation.”

U.K. Plans Sweeping Markets Review to Give London a Brexit Edge

The minister also said:

  • the government isn’t considering removing a cap on bankers’ bonuses “right now.”
  • the U.K. still expects to complete a memorandum of understanding on financial services with the EU by the end of the month
  • the U.K. will do what’s necessary to maintain the “integrity of the clearing system and the confidence in it.”

The reform plans comes at a critical time for the U.K.’s financial services industry, which was largely excluded from the trade deal with the EU. It has pushed to be granted so-called equivalence rulings, which would give wide-ranging access to the bloc, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely as the EU moves to bolster its own financial sector.

U.K. Plans Sweeping Markets Review to Give London a Brexit Edge

While the U.K. granted the EU equivalence in 17 areas, the bloc has so far only reciprocated in two. Glen declined to say when or whether he thought the EU might expand its market access, saying Britain has “co-operated fully.”

“It’s a matter for them,” Glen said. “They are a sovereign body who will make those decisions in due course so what I’ve got to focus on is things that I can do that are in my power.”

The prospect of any U.K. changes will probably make favorable equivalence decisions less likely. Mairead McGuinness, the EU’s commissioner for financial services, has repeatedly warned that the U.K. diverging from the bloc’s rules will be viewed dimly.

Asked whether the government may look to scrap a cap on bankers’ bonuses that’s a legacy of EU membership, Glen said it’s not an immediate concern, without ruling it out.

“What’s really important is that we maintain the competitiveness of London, as a global hub for financial services and we look very carefully at all dimensions of what that means,” he said.

When it comes to acting on the findings of the review, Glen said: “We are very much in active listening mode. And poised to respond.”

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