Tuesday 18 May 2021 1:21 pm

Brexit post-mortem for the City: London's 'Golden Age' is over, warns NatWest chair Howard Davies

The City of London’s will remain a global financial centre but may not see the ‘golden age’ again, according to NatWest bank chairman Howard Davies.

“Almost five years after the Brexit referendum, and five months after Britain’s exit from the European Union, the future of London as a global financial centre seems secure,” the City heavyweight wrote in a column for website Project Syndicate today.

“But although the City will remain Europe’s largest financial marketplace, its Golden Age as Europe’s financial capital is over,” Davies continued.

NatWest chairman and City veteran Howard Davies, who is also a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England and ex-chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority (source: Natwest)

The City’s relationship with Europe changed dramatically on 31 December, when the UK officially left the bloc.

Brussels can grant direct market access for foreign financial services firms if it deems their home market rules are similar to the EU’s own standards, a designation known as equivalence.

It looks unlikely a deal for the City will be struck with the EU anytime soon, though senior figures such as Andrew Bailey have warned the price Brussels is currently demanding remains too high.

‘Dialogue of the deaf’

The debate about the future of the City so far has remained a “dialogue of the deaf” as backers of Brexit say the hit would be minimal, while opponents of leaving the EU forecast “gloom and doom,” said Davies, also a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England and chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority.

Covid-19 has further confused the picture, making it harder for staff to relocate from London to the EU, he added.

Trading in euro shares and swaps shifted from London to the continent, but it will take time for any putative rival in the EU to develop a plausible matching offer, Davies said.

Bankers want Britain to focus on making the City more attractive for global investors and Brussels is scrutinising Britain to see how far it will go in diverging from EU rules.

David Frost, the UK minister in charge with ties with the EU, said earlier this week that it was important for Britain to use its freedom from the bloc to de-regulate in the most productive way possible.

“We are looking at financial services regulations and seeing what we can do now we are able to move on from EU arrangements in financial services,” Frost said.

He is setting up a new unit to start a “journey that will bring huge benefits.”