Europe needs strong London finance hub after Brexit: City envoy

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Brussels (AFP) – Europe must keep London as the continent’s global financial hub after Brexit or risk losing out to Asia and Wall Street, the City of London’s special representative to the EU told AFP on Thursday.

Former British minister Jeremy Browne warned that it was in no one’s interest to punish Britain and that London would remain Europe’s only option for a world-class financial capital after the UK leaves.

“My starting point is to make sure that people across the European Union appreciate that the City of London is a European asset, not just a British asset,” Browne said between meetings with top EU officials and MEPs in Brussels.

“The alternative to Europe having a successful global financial centre in London is Europe not having a global financial centre,” said Brown, who was a British MP for the centre-left Liberal Democrats.

Browne spoke just days after the victory of centrist Emmanuel Macron in France who has promised to be a staunchly pro-EU president.

Macron, a former banker, is expected to push to have Paris replace London as a financial centre but Browne downplayed the threat.

“If Paris was the ideal hub city to put a global financial centre to cover Europe’s interest it would be there already, no one is stopping that from being the case,” Browne said.

“The talk in London is that we shouldn’t assume that jobs will go to somewhere in the European Union … The jobs that don’t rely on a single market location but don’t have to be in London, would more logically go to Asia or New York if anywhere,” he said.

  • ‘Passing phase’ –

Browne also shot down talk that the attitude towards foreigners had soured in London after the Brexit referendum last June.

The UK capital remained “highly international” and the upcoming June 8 election in the UK would prove that.

“I can confidently predict that a nationalist candidate will not get more than a third of the vote in our election the way they did in France,” he said, referring to the result of far right candidate Marine Le Pen who came in second in the French election on Sunday.

“We will remain a global outward looking country,” he said.

Browne also discussed the war of words earlier this month that officials fear poisoned the atmosphere for the launch of the Brexit talks after next month’s poll.

In that row, British Prime Minister Theresa May accused Brussels of trying to influence the election with “threats against Britain”.

She fired off her broadside after a leaked account of a “disastrous” dinner with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker appeared in a German newspaper.

“I hope it just is a passing phase,” Browne said, though he warned that the Commission, which is leading the negotiations for the bloc, should not break the trust of the EU member states it represents.

“It comes back to the point about whether the Commission can be trusted to seek a good deal, to have intelligent adult relationships with the United Kingdom,” he said.

    <figure><figcaption>The City of London is Europe's global financial hub
        <span>Copyright AFP/File JUSTIN TALLIS</span>
      </figcaption><img src="https://desiforce.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/40bd467894992c7af7513d17fc4ffc63715b609d.jpg" width="523" height="768"><figcaption>The City of London's special representative to the EU Jeremy Browne, pictured in 2011
        <span>Copyright AFP/File JORGE BERNAL</span>
      </figcaption></figure>