Some of the City of London’s most prominent business leaders have been drafted in by the government to consult on the UK’s ongoing trade negotiations.
Leaders from companies such as EY, Barclays and HSBC will be members of the Department of International Trade’s newly formed trade advisory groups.
The government is simultaneously negotiating trade deal with the EU, US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand as the UK prepares to leave the EU’s customs union and single market on 31 December.
Talks are stalled in the EU negotiations, with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier now calling a deal “unlikely”, while the US deal is not expected to be completed this year.
The new trade advisory groups will inform the Department of International Trade about the biggest priorities for Britain’s private sector.
Barclays group chief executive Jes Staley, Passion Capital partner Eileen Burbidge MBE and Aviva chief executive Amanda Blanc are among those that have been chosen to sit on advisory groups.
Miles Celic, chief executive officer of Square Mile lobby group TheCityUK, said “closer consultation with industry will help develop our national ambitions and priorities”.
“For financial and related professional services, a focus in those deals on enhancing liberalisation of trade in services will be key,” he said.
“It would also further strengthen the UK’s world-leading position as a global trading hub and premier international financial centre.”
Trade secretary Liz Truss said: “Talks with Japan, the US, Australia and New Zealand are entering their crucial latter stages, so it is only right that we step up engagement with vital industries to utilise their technical and strategic expertise.”
The formation of the new groups came under some criticism from the Trades Union Congress who derided Truss for not including workers’ voices.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “When ministers sit at the negotiating table to make trade deals, they must be properly briefed on the needs of Britain’s working people.”
It comes as European Commission executive vice president Valdis Dombrovskis warned last week that regulatory equivalence – which would give City firms access to the EU – could still take months to be granted.
Dombrovskis said EU member states have still not come to terms with their own regulatory changes for the financial services sector, meaning it could take some time to secure market access for the UK.
Financial services access after the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December has not been a part of the UK-EU free trade deal talks as each country can decide unilaterally whether to allow access to the other’s financial services firms.
Square Mile firms will only be able to continue to access lucrative EU markets if Brussels grants the UK regulatory equivalence for financial services.
Brussels only grants equivalence if the UK’s regulatory regime is comparable to the EU’s.