The government will put the City’s interests at the forefront of its bid to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union, chancellor George Osborne said today.
Writing exclusively for City A.M., the chancellor warns that red tape from Brussels poses a major danger to London’s status as a global financial hub.
While Osborne recognises the benefits of Britain’s access to the single market, he warns:
“One of the greatest threats to the City’s competitiveness comes from misguided European legislation. A central demand in our renegotiation will be that Europe reins in costly and damaging regulation.”
Osborne has worked closely with Prime Minister David Cameron on the government’s renegotiation efforts with the EU, embarking on a whistle-stop tour of three European capitals last month in an effort to secure support from other EU member states for Cameron’s reform agenda.
“My ambition is clear. I want Britain to have the best and most competitive financial services in the world,” the chancellor said.
Osborne added that his “guiding principle” in the renegotiation efforts will be “one of fairness… fairness between the countries in the euro and the euro-outs such as Britain, and seeing the integrity of the single market preserved.” In his opinion piece marking City A.M.’s 10th anniversary, the chancellor also maintains that he wants to finish privatising the state-backed banks in the coming years.
“We’ve made significant progress: our stake in Lloyds is less than half what it was, we’ve sold Northern Rock to a strong new challenger, Virgin Money, and we’ve started selling our stake in Royal Bank of Scotland,” he said, adding: “Completing the job is the right thing to do for the taxpayer, and for the British economy.”
The government has already sold a 12 per cent stake in Lloyds Banking Group, raising £14.5bn.
Last month, it also began selling off its stake in RBS, selling a 5.4 per cent stake in the bank at a loss of £1.1bn for the Treasury.
The chancellor also emphasised the need to eliminate reckless behaviour in the Square Mile, recognising that there is still more to do to gain the public’s trust and saying that the government would ensure that Britain has “the best regulated industry, with the highest standards of conduct”.
“There is no trade-off between high standards of individual conduct and the City’s competitiveness,” he said.