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UK and EU reach first post-Brexit deal on financial rules

UK and EU reach first post-Brexit deal on financial rules

2 min. 26.03.2021 From our online archive
Move could help UK financial firms to win back access to EU
The City of London is facing challenges to its dominance as a financial hub in the immediate aftermath of Brexit
The City of London is facing challenges to its dominance as a financial hub in the immediate aftermath of Brexit
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Britain and the European Union took their first step since Brexit to cooperate on financial services, agreeing on a new forum to discuss market regulation.

The move could help finance firms in the City of London to eventually win back some access to the single market they lost when the U.K. left the EU.

The two sides have agreed a memorandum of understanding on financial services, according to two people familiar with the talks. The content and substance of the deal had been finalized, and the two sides are now working on the formal process of validation, one of the people said.

The memorandum sets out a framework for regulatory cooperation and a joint forum for discussing rules and procedures as well as the sharing of information. It is separate from any decision on equivalence, a series of unilateral rulings that each side can make that offer market access to financial services.

Officials at the Treasury in London didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The European Commission in Brussels declined to comment immediately.

The pound rose 0.6% to a session-high $1.3812 immediately after the news.

”It’s a positive for sure,” said Jordan Rochester, currency strategist at Nomura International Plc. “The market had come to expect further standoffs on financial regulation and the details still need to be sorted out.”

London Limbo

Since Brexit took effect at the beginning of 2021, London-based financial firms have been largely unable to operate in the bloc, forcing banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to move billions of dollars in assets and thousands of staff to the continent. The trade agreement signed by the two sides last year largely sidelined the finance industry, and the EU has said since that it’s in no rush to grant “equivalence” findings that would restore British firms’ trading rights.

Brussels has fretted that the U.K. is veering from EU standards, taking it further away from “equivalent” status. The lack of agreement has put London’s decades-long dominance of European finance under threat and left many U.K.-based finance firms that wish to do business inside the EU saddled -- perhaps indefinitely -- with the added complexity and cost of supporting operations in both the U.K. and the bloc.

While the MOU process is entirely separate to equivalence, some EU officials have said that securing a common framework around certain financial services rules could help unlock some limited equivalence decisions allowing U.K. firms access to the wider EU market.

“We know we would want to make progress after the MOU around some issues,” Mairead McGuinness, the bloc’s commissioner for financial services told journalists this month, while warning that divergence would hamper any equivalence rulings.

How ‘Equivalence’ Holds Key to Post-Brexit Banking

An earlier draft of the agreement seen by Bloomberg says the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer and the European Commission’s top financial services official should meet twice a year to discuss regulation. It also says the forum’s activities include:

informal consultations on decisions to adopt, suspend or withdraw equivalencekeeping the two sides informed on supervision and enforcement of rulessharing information and analysis about the financial industry, including on taxation and efforts to fight money laundering(Updates with details from sixth paragraph.)

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