LONDON – Representatives of London's financial sector will head to Brussels on Wednesday to discuss Brexit, the first such meeting with officials there since Britain's divorce talks with the EU began last month.
The meeting comes at a time of political and economic uncertainty in Britain, with many businesses worried that Prime Minister Theresa May will opt for a "hard Brexit" that would isolate the country from the European Union's single, tariff-less market.
Lobbying group TheCityUK have previously called for "mutual market access" and the "acceptance of professional qualifications, practice rights, standards for regulated products and services" between post-Brexit Britain and the EU, a stance at odds with May's plan. TheCityUK will release another report on the issue in upcoming months.
British banks have a lot to lose in a "hard Brexit," as they would be deprived of so-called passporting rights, which allow financial services to operate freely throughout the EU's single market with standard regulation. Adapting to that by, for example, opening offices in an EU country, would cost British banks' an estimated 15 billion euros ($17 billion), according to the Association of Financial Markets in Europe.
And many North American and Asian banks with European headquarters in London have already threatened to move jobs and operations to a city in a remaining EU country should Britain lose its EU passporting rights. Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group said Monday that it would be the latest group to move their EU headquarters from Britain to Germany over fears that Brexit could lead to "future restrictions."
TheCityUK says it regularly hosts delegations in Brussels, and that this one is "not out of the ordinary" but Brexit will be discussed.