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November 16, 2016

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ECB talks to banks about move

THE European Central Bank is talking to banks looking to move some operations from London to the eurozone following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, ECB board member Sabine Lautenschlaeger said yesterday.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney meanwhile warned that lenders could start shifting activities in late 2017 if a “hard Brexit” looks likely and if the British government begins the divorce process in March as indicated.

Banks are looking for ways to ensure they retain the ability to easily sell their services into the EU — a market of 450 million people — after Britain leaves.

That means some lenders may opt to shift enough assets and operations to a country in the eurozone to ensure they qualify for supervision by the ECB.

“We have already many banks asking for interviews and meetings so that they can identify where are our pressure points and where our methods differ from PRA (Prudential Regulation Authority) methods,” Lautenschlaeger said in Frankfurt. “For sure we are preparing.”

The BOE’s PRA is now the main regulator for the European operations of most US and Asian banks, as well as UK lenders.

Speaking in London, Carney said banks and insurers were making contingency plans in case Britain loses a lot of its access to the single market but that it would be “precipitous” for them to take final decisions now about what Brexit means.

He said banks may start to relocate about one and a half years before a British departure from the EU if a “hard Brexit” looks likely.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she wants to begin the two-year process for negotiating Britain’s exit by the end of March, although that schedule might be delayed by a court decision that parliament should approve the launch of talks.

The government’s likely stance in negotiations — particularly how it will balance a desire to curb immigration with retaining access to the single market — remains unclear.

The government is deeply divided over its plans for Britain’s future relationship with the bloc, according to a memo for the government leaked to the Times newspaper.

Goldman Sachs had said it is considering shifting some operations to Frankfurt.


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