Boris Johnson's Brexit speech backed by City chiefs as sector renews calls for financial services deal

 
Catherine Neilan
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Johnson: "I don't think we should commit as a matter of treaty that forever and a day we should be locked in permanent congruence with the EU." (Source: Getty)

The City has welcomed Boris Johnson's pro-growth vision for managed divergence - and once again pressed for the financial services blueprint written by the International Regulatory Strategy Group to be adopted.

The foreign secretary’s Valentine’s Day speech, which aimed to heal the divisions between Remainers and Leavers, wasn’t enough to win over his critics, while his rambling comments about organic carrots and stag trips to Eastern Europe raised a few eyebrows.

However the policy nub of his speech - that of selective alignment - was welcomed by those in financial services.

Johnson said: "It's all about who decides. When it comes to EU standards for washing machines or hairdryers or whatever, it may make sense for us to remain in alignment as a matter of choice, as something we elect to do.

"But I don't think we should commit as a matter of treaty that for ever and a day we should be forever locked in permanent congruence with the EU."

Johnson said there may be "good environmental arguments" against changing rules on certain products but added that "when we are not around the table" we should not have laws imposed on us. He also indicated that freedom of movement for highly skilled people should be retained.

"We would be mad to go through this process of extraction and not take advantage of what it brings," he added, stressing that the "Brexit levers" could help shift our economy from low-productivity and low wage to high productivity and high wage.

TheCityUK chief executive Miles Celic said: “Boris Johnson is right to underline the need for the UK to strike a deal with the EU that wouldn’t leave it a rule taker, especially given its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.

"Ultimately the industry wants to see a pro-growth Brexit that is in the interests of people across the UK and the EU, ensures mutual access to the best and brightest talent and sees the UK open for business to trade with the rest of the world. This end-state must be the guiding light for the negotiations.”

The City of London Corporation and TheCityUK are still embarking on their tour of European capital cities to win over the EU27 to the blueprint put forward by the International Regulatory Strategy Group (IRSG) and former City minister Mark Hoban. It is understood this is now seen as the only model that would fit the government's vision as set ou by Johnson and the sector's demand for access.

Despite recent reports that Brussels was minded to reject the blueprint, one City insider said the mood was receptive.

"Everyone has to set out an absolutist and stark position now so when they make concessions later it doesn’t seem like a loss," he said. "A lot of the rhetoric is pure froth."

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