My Lords, the White Paper is in tatters, the country is riven and, frankly I fear that we face a no-deal Brexit. I can see no sensible way forward other than a people’s vote. I say this after getting reinforcement for that view from an unexpected quarter: namely, a series of conversations with leaders in the financial services sector, who are quite frankly in shock. Most will not put their heads above the parapet, which I really regret at this stage, when I think it would be very helpful and important—but I understand their reluctance to scare investors, customers and employees.
How can a Government wilfully draw red lines which hurt our primary industry in its primary non-domestic market—indeed, a market that accounts for roughly one-third of the total financial services sector? I discussed with the City a year ago the benefits that financial services bring to the UK: £76 billion a year in taxes—think what that delivers in terms of the public sector—and some 2 million jobs. The City told me: “We have been abandoned by May. We are not a popular industry and they will not go in to bat for us”. I wrote down that quote. The required battle is frankly not with the EU—because the financial services sector is very satisfied with the current arrangement and, if it could get a single market in financial services, that would answer so many of its difficulties. The battle, frankly, is with the Brexiteers.
I find when I talk to Brexiteers that they live in a world of delusion, where something called “different regulation”—let us be honest and admit that “different regulation” is faux for “deregulation”—brings some mythical great opportunity. It is telling, when I go around to talk to people and ask what regulation they would remove, that the only one that gets suggested is removing the cap on bankers’ bonuses.