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Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day) (continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Kramer Baroness Kramer Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Treasury and Economy) 9:45 pm, 30th January 2019

My Lords, perhaps it is sensible to come in right after the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, following that invitation. I will try to be brief.

Amendment 55 stands in my name. In the past two and a half years I have been shocked by how little attention has been paid to financial services and to what would happen to our access to the EU 27 in the field of financial services after any Brexit. I do not suppose that I have to rehearse for this Committee the significance of this industry. It accounts for something like 80% of GDP; it pays £76 billion a year in taxes, which support our National Health Service; and it has created 2 million jobs spread over the country. It is absolutely critical but has been very largely ignored. I make a plea to the Government that they should begin to get serious about financial services and understand their significance.

If I were to describe the industry in the UK, it basically breaks into thirds. Financial services range all the way from the smallest fintech companies, through insurance, asset management and banks, right up to the global sector of the London Stock Exchange and the London Clearing House. It is huge and varied, but roughly a third is domestic-facing and relatively untouched by Brexit.

About a third is intensely based on the industry’s EU 27 clientele. About half of that business has already gone or is in the process of leaving, and if anyone speaks to government on a day when they are being honest, basically they do not think that we have much chance of keeping much of that one-third in the UK over the medium term and certainly not over the long term.

We come to the final third, which is absolutely critical and where the decisions made in the coming weeks and months will have a great impact. I refer to the global piece, which one could think of in a way as being bigger than but represented by the London Stock Exchange and the London Clearing House. The future of that final global third has a real question mark hanging over it.

I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, that London is a global centre partly due to its long-standing experience and partly due to good regulation, but critical to it is that it is the global financial centre for the euro—the second most significant global currency. That is what underpins London and its global role. Unfortunately, in all finance, where we know that risk exists, the ultimate protection and backstop in a time of risk is liquidity, and for all euro-denominated transactions that source of final liquidity is the European Central Bank. Therefore, from a European perspective, to be exposed to that level of risk, which is in euro trillions, with no ability to control the regulation, monitoring or supervision of a major global financial centre is really serious and significant.

I believe that fundamentally the Government have never looked at this issue from a European perspective and that they completely underestimate the medium and long-term interest in the European Union in pulling back much of that activity to an area where it can regulate, monitor and supervise because it carries the ultimate risk. Suggestions that have come from the City, which have been kicked around in government and in this House, have come largely from a very small Brexiteer think tank. I know the people well and have been to many of their meetings.