UNCERTAINTY over the future of Europe, and to an extent Britain’s role within it, continues to dominate the agenda, even as the latest summit in Brussels wraps up.
Clearly there are strong views on both sides of this debate in the Square Mile. But – regardless of whether you are a eurosceptic, europhile or something in between – we must all engage fully and actively in this debate, given London’s status as Europe’s financial capital.
That is why Mark Boleat – policy chairman of the City of London corporation – and I have the ambition to visit or hold an event for each of our EU partners next year.
The first mission took place last week – a visit to Dublin ahead of the Irish presidency of the Council of the European Union in the New Year.
As a neighbour and our fifth largest export market, Ireland is a natural partner for the UK in Europe. To put this into context, UK exports to Ireland are twice those to China – a country whose population is more than 300 times that of Ireland.
Not only do we share common ground on many European issues, our two financial services sectors are also interlinked and interdependent. Global business moving to London ultimately benefits the Irish financial services industry by increasing the likelihood that complementary jobs and business will be generated in Dublin. Yes, there’s a natural competition between us in several areas, But when attracting investment from the global arena, we all benefit.
This mutually-beneficial partnership makes it even more important to understand what agenda will be pursued over the course of the Irish presidency, and to feed in the City’s thoughts on EU regulation before it takes office.
During our visit, Irish policymakers made it clear that they intend to adopt a strictly neutral stance while concentrating on a containable number of issues. Key areas affecting the City on the horizon include the proposed European banking union, the capital requirements directive, a revised markets in financial instruments directive (MiFID II) and the financial transactions tax.
The UK needs to be fully engaged in shaping this legislative programme. Only by openly and clearly making the case for a level playing field and the single market can we ensure that the regulatory direction of travel promotes job creation and growth in Britain. European policymakers must be reminded that they are not acting in isolation, and need to consider the impact of reforms on all international competitiveness.
In order to strengthen the single market, however, we must first strengthen our relations with key European allies. Ireland will play a major role in setting the agenda in the six months it holds the presidency. Our visit made it clear that the City – while conscious of the significance of this period – takes a far longer-term view on the enduring Anglo-Irish partnership, and the benefits it continues to bring to our two financial services sectors.
Roger Gifford is lord mayor of the City of London.