Treasury fury as EU delays implementation of Vickers

THE EU is holding back vital plans that will allow the UK to move forwards with implementing the Vickers banking reforms, City A.M. has learned.

The UK Treasury is growing increasingly exasperated with the European Commission’s (EC) refusal to publish long-awaited plans for how to wind up failing banks without resorting to bail-outs, a key goal of the Vickers reforms.

The EU directive, which is fully drafted, aims to tackle the assumption that big banks will always be rescued, but the EC is terrified that releasing it will spook investors and reignite the Eurozone crisis.

In particular, it is fearful that proposals to introduce “bail-in” powers, which give regulators the ability to make private debt-holders take the losses when a bank fails, could cause the interbank lending markets to freeze again.

But the Treasury is desperate to get on with implementing the Vickers Commission’s reforms, which put bail-in bonds at the centre of plans to wind up banks.

It argues with the EU that markets “know it’s coming” and therefore the uncertainty over the details is more damaging than publishing them. The UK does not want to simply draft its own bail-in rules for fear of putting British banks at a disadvantage in international debt markets. Britain also argues that now is the time to act, when the European Central Bank has flooded banks with €1 trillion in loans.

The EC’s delays have raised fears that it will simply never publish the proposals. Clifford Chance partner Simon Gleeson said: “There is never a good time to increase banks’ cost of funding but it’s better to do it when they have strong access to extra liquidity. If not now, then when?”