Theresa May has warned the EU against attempting to diminish the City of London during Brexit negotiations.
The Prime Minister insisted “it is in neither the EU’s nor the UK’s interest” to see Britain’s dominant financial services sector “fragment” once the country leaves the EU.
Her comments reflect fears other European finance hubs such as Frankfurt or Paris could capitalise on Brexit to boost their prominence.
Speaking at a conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the Bank of England’s independence, Mrs May urged the EU not to erect “needless” barriers to trade in goods or services as the UK departs the bloc.
“We believe in free trade, in rigorous and fair competition, in strong consumer rights, and in a rejection of protectionism,” she said.
Image: There are fears other European finance hubs could capitalise on Brexit to boost their prominence
“And whether it is on goods or on services – including the excellent financial services for which the UK has a global reputation – creating needless new barriers to trade between the EU and its biggest market would benefit no one.
“The UK’s financial markets provide support for businesses and consumers right across the EU, reducing the cost of capital and supporting choice and innovation for consumers.
“It is in neither the EU’s nor the UK’s interest to see these financial service markets fragment.”
The Prime Minister cited the City of London’s position as the EU’s leading financial services hub as “another reason” for her confidence Britain and Brussels can “agree a new partnership that enables us to continue to work together to bring prosperity for all our peoples”.
Answering questions after her speech, Mrs May insisted the Government would be doing “everything we can to ensure that we continue to see the City of London continuing to play its role as a global financial centre”.
“We want firms to be able to stay here and continue as they have done and the contribution that they’ve made,” she added.
The Prime Minister also revealed “some aspects” of her planned Brexit implementation period could be “brought forward” and occur sooner than the two-year transition she has outlined.
Mrs May’s comments come as Brexit Secretary David Davis prepares to conclude the latest round of Brexit negotiations on Thursday.
Image: Bank of England Governor Mark Carney appeared to rebuke Brexiteers
The Government is hoping this week’s talks will satisfy the EU’s demand for “significant progress” on divorce matters, in order to allow negotiations to turn to the future trading relationship between Britain and the bloc.
In a speech before the PM’s, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney appeared to rebuke Brexiteers who criticised his interventions during the EU referendum campaign, which saw Michael Gove – who is now Environment Secretary – notably claim “the British people have had enough of experts”.
On Thursday, Mr Carney described the need for the Bank to be “open and accountable” because of a “growing distrust of institutions and the ‘experts’ who reside within them”.
He added: “Better public understanding makes our policies more effective.”