UK needs to find its "swagger" to thrive post-Brexit, says boss of Intercontinental Exchange as euro clearing battle heats up

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The UK has a strong hand going into Brexit negotiations, but needs some "swagger", says the boss of ICE (Source: Getty)

Britain has been urged to find its “swagger” as the battle over London’s €1 trillion-per-day euro clearing market heats up.

The boss of US financial giant the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) said the UK government has a "very strong hand" as it heads into Brexit negotiations, given the strength of the City's world class financial services sector.

Jeffrey Sprecher, ICE chief executive, revealed that the governments of France, Germany and the Netherlands have approached ICE to persuade them to move infrastructure, including clearing operations, away from London.

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The UK government has made no such attempt to charm ICE, he said.

“And I think it’s a missed opportunity,” Sprecher told the Prosperity UK conference yesterday.

Because I don’t know that a deal is needed as much as an attitude towards ‘how do we make the UK open for business to the world?’ And sometimes if you build a really good store with really good pricing people will actually come. And all you have to do is advertise it. And so I think the UK should have a little bit of swagger and not worry too much about the detail.

Sprecher was speaking as another high-profile European politician made a verbal grab for the UK’s euro clearing crown. French finance minister Michel Sapin told the BBC yesterday “the majority of the clearing houses cannot remain in London”.

The European Central Bank (ECB) lost a legal battle to force clearing houses to decamp to the Eurozone in 2015. But the debate was reignited after last year's Brexit vote.

City grandee Michael Spencer, the chief executive of Nex Group, yesterday blasted EU attempts to snatch clearing business as “a very dangerous situation”. He added: “We have to move away from arguments of protectionism and nationalism to really what is in the interests of Europe and the world and the UK”.

Marshall Wace chairman Paul Marshall said: “If [the EU tries to take clearing from London] again, it would be a protectionist act. And protectionism always ultimately damages the people who engage in it.”

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Also speaking at the Prosperity UK event was Brexit minister David Davis, who said Britain would not “pull up the drawbridge” after Brexit.

“The UK’s departure from the EU should not be viewed through a protectionist lens,” he said. “We want to reach out to our old friends and new allies alike and say: Britain is open for business.”

Research published this morning from the CBI values annual UK-EU trade at €600bn (£508bn). The business lobby group says companies across the continent are keen for a free-trade deal.

"Far from being about doing the UK a favour, it is based on solid economic reasoning for both sides," CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn is expected to say at a speech in Cambridge later today.

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