Brexit is biggest risk to financial services and City of London

Guy Bentley
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The City could face tough times after Brexit

The financial services industry is the sector most in danger if Britain pulls out of the EU, a study has suggested.

A report by Open Europe examining how the UK's key export sectors would fare after British withdrawal found that while all sectors would face some disruption, a divorce from the EU poses a particular risk to Britain's leading industry.

An independent UK would fall foul of the EU policy that offers companies in non-member states only limited cross-border access to EU markets, with strict conditions to boot.

The UK could avoid this situation - which currently applies to Switzerland - by signing up to the European Economic Area (EEA), Norway's position.

However, the trouble with EEA membership is that Britain would have to sign up to many of the rules and regulations it would've left the EU to avoid.

With Britain out of the EU, the Germans and the Dutch would lose a key ally and proponent of free markets. The balance of power within the EU would likely tip toward greater regulation for access to the single market.

Open Europe puts the risk of disruption to the UK's financial services industry as "high" and the chances of replicating its current success outside the EU as "low". The report, which is based on interviews with businesses, trade associations, and additional research covered eight sectors that count for around half of Britain's exports.

The report is not all bad news for eurosceptics, however. Open Europe concluded that a Britain free from Brussels' interference will be "nimbler and would regain control over trade policy and, possibly, a whole range of regulations".

The chemicals industry is an area Open Europe points to where benefits could accrue thanks to more cost-effective emissions scheme.

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