Today marks the start of a visit to continental Europe – to Spain and Portugal – where I have numerous meetings scheduled with government representatives and business leaders over the next few days.
Spain in particular holds a close personal connection, as during the early part of my career at PwC, I spent a productive and eye-opening secondment in our office in Barcelona.
But this visit is not about reflecting on what was a wonderful time in my career or practising my Spanish. There are two things in particular that I am keen to promote abroad.
The first is to press the case for the work of the International Regulatory Strategy Group for an EU27 trade deal that includes financial services. This has been a pan-industry effort to make the argument for a two-way market access approach based on mutual recognition, and how it can work for both parties.
The second is to carry the message that London, as a financial centre, remains an asset for all of Europe – not just for the UK, and that this will remain the case after Brexit, as our leading global financial centre status helps maximise the efficiency of Europeans’ ability to raise finance, invest savings, manage risk and settle trades.
Both countries have a strong footprint on the UK economy.
Spain is the largest EU27 investor in financial services, while Santander, BBVA, and Telefonica all have a large presence here.
My visit will also be an opportunity to build on the links that were strengthened during the state visit last year by King Felipe and Queen Letizia. My predecessor, Sir Andrew Parmley, hosted both at a business forum at the Mansion House and later at a Guildhall Banquet in their honour.
I am certain that these events, and wider visit, led to productive discussions between all attendees.
We start from a position of strength with Spain.
The UK is home to over 130,000 Spanish workers and residents, nearly 2,000 of whom work in the Square Mile, while there are a further 13,000 students and academics here, and we welcome some two million tourists from Spain each year. Clearly the human links between our two countries are as strong as ever.
Portugal remains a hub of innovation and dynamism, with a youthful and exuberant workforce, especially in areas like fintech. I am looking forward to building new partnerships, especially in this burgeoning sector, where Lisbon has a lively and innovative tech industry with strong synergies with London.
I will also look to underline the importance of English law, UK banking and UK capital markets in Portugal’s economic development.
Visits like these help ensure that the City’s voice is heard across the EU27, and that we build strong relationships with key decision makers.
They also provide a platform to elaborate why the City does not just matter for the UK, but also for the wider European economy, for growth, and for the millions of consumers in Europe who benefit from the services and expertise that we can provide.