Banking leaders from Goldman Sachs and HSBC were among those who met the chancellor and the Brexit secretary to discuss how to keep financial services in the UK after leaving the European Union.
Philip Hammond and David Davis hosted a gathering at the Shard tower in central London on Monday, amid concern among many banks about losing “passporting” rights and the potential shock of Brexit if there is no transitional deal to cushion the impact of leaving the EU.
Almost 5,500 UK financial firms rely on corporate “passports” to conduct business across the EU, with banks warning that loss of the rights could mean companies and jobs move to other European countries.
The government said the meeting was about the “opportunities offered by the UK’s decision to leave the EU”, with ministers saying they would feed back the insights given by City chiefs into their analysis of options for Brexit.
Attendees included Barclays and Santander banks as well as insurers such as Lloyd’s of London and investment companies including BlackRock.
A source close to the meeting said the government appeared to be in “listening mode” without revealing any detail about how Brexit would be carried out. A number of company representatives expressed concerns about keeping financial services and insurance in London competitive while the UK goes through the process of leaving the EU.
Ministers have previously given assurances to Nissan, the carmaker, that the whole automobile sector in the UK would be competitive following Brexit, enabling it to pledge a major investment in Sunderland. But the announcement brought demands from other sectors for similar pledges that the government would ensure they remain competitive.
Trade body the British Bankers’ Association warned in October that major banks are preparing to relocate out of the UK in the first few months of 2017 amid growing fears over the impending Brexit negotiations, while smaller banks are making plans to leave before Christmas.
Industry body TheCityUk has also claimed that up to 70,000 financial jobs could be lost if Britain leaves the EU without a new, credible relationship in place for the City of London.
After the event, Hammond and Davis issued a joint statement, saying they were “determined that our country remains a great place to invest and to do business” after leaving the EU.
“We want the best deal for trade in UK goods and services, including our world-leading financial services industry,” they said.
“That is why these meetings, where we listen closely to the sector’s views on the potential impact and opportunities offered by us leaving the EU, are so important.
“Our financial services sector makes a crucial contribution to our economy and we will work together to ensure it continues as the hub for both Europe and the rest of the world.”
A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, which was one of the attendees, said: “This meeting was an important opportunity to feed into the government’s Brexit strategy to ensure that the industry continues to be a competitive, innovative marketplace.”
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