Editor's notes: Calm down, the banks are not about to run for the European hills

Christian May
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We should disregard talk of financial institutions planning to abandon London (Source: Getty)

The government has agreed to set out its Brexit plans to parliament. While this will fall short of outlining a full negotiation strategy, it has been welcomed by politicians and business groups as a necessary step towards providing some clarity. However, there appears to still be confusion in some quarters over the fate of the City, post-Brexit.

Earlier this week, the BBC’s Newsnight ran a dramatic report on the efforts of European cities to hoover up international banks currently located in London. At the heart of the report was an interview with top French regulator, Benoit de Juvigny, who claimed that Paris was abuzz with enquiries from banks considering a move out of London. Well, in the words of a (rightly) sceptical Savvas Savouri of Toscafund (HQ: Long Acre, London) “he would say that, wouldn’t he?” Savouri joins a chorus of voices I’ve heard this week pouring scorn on the idea that Paris - of all places - is set to benefit from banks looking to move post-Brexit.

First of all, we should disregard talk of major financial institutions planning to abandon London. While we might well see international banks relocate a small number of roles to the continent, there is no single European city capable of replicating what London offers the world’s financial institutions. As Savouri says, “Paris or Frankfurt will do little more than provide out-posts for those hedging their ‘passporting’ bets.”

Read More: PM bids to head off rebel Tories by agreeing to publish some Brexit plans

I spoke at a private dinner earlier this week, attended by senior figures from acrosss financial and professional services, and all agreed that London will still be the financial services capital of Europe in five, 10 and 15 years’ time. None of them were misty-eyed Brexiters, but all recognised the unique conditions that make the City so successful. Of course banks are considering a range of scenarios and options, but such moves should not be taken as a sign of imminent upheaval in the City.

Celebrating those who do things differently

To the Institute of Directors, where I used to work as head of communications. One of the last things I did there was to introduce an annual lecture in honour of the IoD’s remarkable former president who held the role in the 1920s. Margaret Mackworth, the Viscountess Rhondda, was a businesswoman and active suffragette. When she wasn’t chairing board meetings she was blowing up post boxes as part of the feminist struggle. As I said, a remarkable woman. This year’s lecture was delivered by Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who carries something of the revolutionary flame herself. She was introduced by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, whose father was a senior office holder at the IoD. She told the audience that not that long ago, when she came to see her old man at the IoD’s Pall Mall HQ, she was denied entry on the grounds that denim was not allowed. That rule has since been lifted. A revolutionary move that would have pleased Mackworth.

Don't believe it until he tweets it

Speaking of The Donald, anyone assuming that preparing for the White House would mean fewer Twitter rants from the next President is quite mistaken. He’s used the platform to pick fights with Boeing and China, as well as journalists and satirists. Now a note from UBS says investors should take seriously reports that Trump wants to reform the Fed, but concedes that since “there has been no tweet on this” it cannot yet be taken as policy. Watch that Twitter feed...

Read more: Donald Trump took to Twitter (naturally) to defend his Taiwan call

Carols, charity and the Christmas spirit

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Macmillan Carol Concert, held in the magnificent Guards Chapel of Wellington Barracks. The music was sublime, and uplifting – as were the readings. The pursuit of peace was a recurring theme: peace on earth, and also peace for those affected by cancer, too. In a couple of weeks I shall be reading at another charity carol concert, raising funds for the Journalists’ Charity, at St Bride’s on Fleet St. Do come along.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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