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31 January 2013

Telegraph: 'Catastrophic' EU exit would leave City defenceless against regulatory attack

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European regulators have the means to shut down key parts of London's financial centre at a stroke if Britain left the European Union and would not hesitate to do so, leading central bank experts have warned. (Includes quote from Graham Bishop.)

Membership of the EU single market is the UK’s only legal defence against an onslaught of regulations aimed at forcing banks and fund managers to decamp to the eurozone, they say. “It would be catastrophic and suicidal for Britain to leave. The UK would lose the protection it currently enjoys as the eurozone’s major financial centre”, said Athanasios Orphanides, a former member of the European Central Bank’s governing council.

Mr Orphanides said the ECB is already clamping down on payments, clearing and settlement systems conducted in euros outside its jurisdiction, a move deemed necessary to head off future crises. “The only thing stopping regulation that would shift all such activities from London to the eurozone is the legal protection the City enjoys in the EU”, he told The Daily Telegraph.

While Britain is in a “very strong” position now as an EU member outside the eurozone, this would evaporate the moment the UK tears up its membership card. “The UK would be the big loser. I don’t believe it will happen because Britain has the best technocrats in the world, and the British people are rational”, he said.

The ECB’s proposed rules would force LCH Clearnet, and other clearers such as ICE and CME, to hive off part of their business to eurozone hubs. Leaked documents from the Banque de France in 2009 revealed that Paris was pushing behind the scenes for a French clearing house, explicitly to break London’s stronghold. France has since tried to push through a Directive requiring clearers to have access to ECB liquidity for euro trades.

Graham Bishop, an expert on EU regulation, said there is a string of parallel disputes, covering such arcane areas as “UCITS” depositories for EU unit trusts or rules on fund management. “The big danger is that foreign banks and funds quietly locate their new business in Frankfurt and Paris, and after five years we will discover that the centre of gravity has moved”, he said.

Full article

© The Daily Telegraph

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