Blog Post

With Brexit London would lose business as a global financial centre

London could lose its status of a global financial hub if there is a Brexit. Who would win the business that London would lose?

By: Date: June 6, 2016 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

This text was published in the Spring 2016 issue of The International Economy.

There are multiple sub-scenarios in the aftermath of a No vote on June 23. In almost all of them, however, London would lose business as a global financial center. Part of its unmatched position as a hub for international financial services is linked to its membership of the European Union and corresponding access to the EU internal market. Non-European banks, especially US ones, use London as a beachhead into the single market, and many euro-area banks centralize their EU wholesale markets activities there. The EU “passport” concept of mutual recognition among supervisory authorities works smoothly for investment banking activities. The EU framework provides strong legal protection against regulatory fiat, as was illustrated when the European Court of Justice in March 2015 rejected the European Central Bank’s “location policy,” intended to force clearing houses to move their euro-denominated operations from London to the euro area. The access and protections would disappear if the UK was to withdraw from the internal market.

Most non-UK-headquartered large financial institutions take the possibility of a No vote seriously.

Most non-UK-headquartered large financial institutions are actively working on post-referendum plans, and take the possibility of a No vote seriously. For understandable reasons they do not communicate about this planning work and its conclusions. But early indications suggest that their moves following a No vote could be quick and significant, given the likelihood that the United Kingdom would enter a prolonged period of high uncertainty. An order of magnitude of one-third of activity potentially relocated outside of the United Kingdom does not appear far-fetched.

Who would win the business that London would lose?

The next obvious question is about who would win the business that London would lose. Inside the European Union, some have expectations that, since Germany and France would be the largest remaining countries, Frankfurt and Paris would be best placed to gain. But this ignores the incentives for financial firms to go to the most finance-friendly places, and there are a number of them in Europe. A rule of thumb of finance-friendliness is provided by the European Commission’s ill-starred proposal of a Financial Transaction Tax, whose adoption only a minority of EU member states are considering. FTT doubters such as Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Sweden are more likely to attract business from London than FTT supporters including France, Germany, or, for that matter, Belgium.

But even bigger transfers could happen outside the European Union, and specifically to the United States. On almost any measure, London and New York are by far the world’s two largest financial centers. U.S. authorities have acknowledged London as a preferred entry point into the European Union for American financial firms, and have built strong working relationships with UK financial regulators over the years. But once the bilateral link with London is no longer part of the larger relationship between the United States and the European Union, one can expect a more competitive stance to favor New York as the best place to do international financial business.

London would have a lot to gain from the continuation of EU financial integration.

Even more difficult to assess, but arguably also even more substantial, is the opportunity cost of a Brexit. London would have a lot to gain from the continuation of EU financial integration. Banking Union, even in its current halfway form, will lead to the opening of more financial business to cross-border competition across the European Union, and so will any concrete moves in the direction of the European Commission’s vision of a Capital Markets Union. But if the United Kingdom is no longer in the European Union, it will not be able to reap as much advantage from these future developments as it has in the past steps of EU integration.

Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

View comments
Read article

Blog Post

India’s trade ties with the UK and EU

As EU and Indian leaders meet in Delhi, we look at the figures on trade. The UK’s place in the relationship warrants special attention. EU-India trade has more than tripled since 2000, but UK-India trade is largely static. The shift is especially noticeable for EU exports to India, where the UK share has dropped from 29% to 10%.

By: Maria Demertzis and Alexander Roth Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: October 6, 2017
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Can roaming be saved after Brexit?

The referendum where UK voters chose to exit the European Union has many unanticipated consequences. One that is gaining visibility in the UK just now is the impact of Brexit on mobile roaming arrangements. How might the UK maintain roaming arrangements with the EU in the event of a hard Brexit?

By: J. Scott Marcus and Robert G. Clarke Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: September 21, 2017
Read article Download PDF More by this author

Policy Contribution

Dutch Senate

Europe’s fourfold union: Updating the 2012 vision

The depiction of the euro area/European Union (EU) as a ‘fourfold union’ emerged in the first half of 2012 at the height of the euro-area crisis. In the past half-decade, Europe’s financial union has been significantly strengthened but remains incomplete and is challenged by Brexit. No consensus has been found on fiscal union and economic union has not made material progress, but political union might have advanced further than many observers realize.

By: Nicolas Véron Topic: Dutch Senate, European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation, Testimonies Date: September 21, 2017
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

External Publication

Review of EU-third country cooperation on policies falling within the ITRE domain in relation to Brexit

What is the possible future relationship between the EU and the UK in light of Brexit? The report provides a critical assessment of the implications of existing models of cooperation between third countries and the European Union on energy, electronic communications, research policy and small business policy.

By: J. Scott Marcus, Georgios Petropoulos, André Sapir, Simone Tagliapietra, Alessio Terzi, Reinhilde Veugelers and Georg Zachmann Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 5, 2017
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Can EU actors keep using common law after Brexit?

English common law is the choice of law for financial contracts, even for parties in EU members with civil law systems. This creates a lucrative legal sector in the UK, but Brexit could make UK court decisions difficult to enforce in the EU. Parties will be able to continue using English common law after Brexit, but how will these contracts be enforced? Some continental courts are preparing to make judicial decisions on common law cases in the English language.

By: Uuriintuya Batsaikhan and Dirk Schoenmaker Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 22, 2017
Read article More by this author

Parliamentary Testimony

House of Commons

Exiting the European Union Committee

On 19 April 2017 Zsolt Darvas appeared as a witness at the Exiting the European Union Committee, the House of Commons, United Kingdom.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, House of Commons, Testimonies Date: June 20, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Brexit and the future of the Irish border

The future of the Irish land border has been thrown into uncertainty by Brexit. The UK's confirmation that it will leave the EU's single market and customs union implies that customs checks will be needed. However, there is little desire for hard controls from any of the parties involved. This is especially true for Theresa May's potential partner, the DUP. Creative solutions are needed to reach a solution.

By: Filippo Biondi Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 19, 2017
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Substance requirements for financial firms moving out from the UK

In the run-up to Brexit, UK-based financial firms are considering how to organize their operations across the future divide between the UK and EU27. This event will discuss the regulatory requirements on how self-sustaining the operations in the EU should be, and implications for the single market and third countries.

Speakers: Gerry Cross, Simon Gleeson and Nicolas Véron Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 2, 2017
Read article More by this author

Blog Post

Pharmaceutical industry at risk from Brexit

Pharmaceuticals are a hugely important industry for the EU and the UK. The sector creates thousands of jobs, billions of euros in exports, and is Europe’s most research-intense industry. But will Brexit mean for pharma? Border delays, disruption to R&D and regulatory divergence all pose hazards.

By: Jianwei Xu Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 31, 2017
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

UK economic performance post-Brexit

What’s at stake: Almost a year after the UK voted to leave the European Union, its economic performance has showed mixed results. The risks of a Brexit-induced recession do not seem to be materialising. On the contrary, up until the end of 2016 the UK saw a continuation of strong consumer spending and strong output in consumer-focused activities. However, the UK economy is showing signs of slowing down in the first quarter of 2017, with weak growth in the services sector and business investments. In addition, strong consumption growth started to cool down as individuals’ purchasing power declines due to a weaker exchange rate. This leads to a question whether it is the beginning of the Brexit slowdown. We review the contributions made on this topic in the last year.

By: Uuriintuya Batsaikhan and Justine Feliu Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 15, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

International arbitration is the way to settle the UK’s Brexit bill

The UK-EU financial settlement risks becoming a toxic stumbling block in Brexit negotiations. But there are actually much more important issues to discuss. To diffuse the issue, both sides should agree to independent international arbitration.

By: André Sapir Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 11, 2017
Read article More on this topic More by this author


Brexit will change millions of lives. Our leaders must do more than posture

From the land border with Ireland to expats’ pension rights, there is much to negotiate.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 8, 2017
Load more posts