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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:00 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Kramer Baroness Kramer Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Treasury and Economy) 10:00 pm, 30th January 2019

I assure the noble Viscount that from the perspective of the dollar, far more of the transactions clear through New York. It is a bigger market. I know we often say that we are the largest, but if we look at the table comparisons, New York is frankly bigger. Certainly, dollar dominance is exercised through New York. The yen is less of a controversial player, and there are not a lot of renminbi. If anybody thinks that China is going to allow its currency to develop a real global presence and not be regulated, monitored and supervised by the Chinese state, they have missed any understanding of how China works. We are convenient but temporary, and we need to recognise that.

People talk about the growing market, but essentially the global markets function in the dollar, the euro and—in the future—the renminbi. They will not function in small African or South American currencies. Those are not players; they are minor currencies. Sterling is treated by the industry as a minor currency. There are two, and there will be three, major currencies that essentially underpin global activity. At the moment one is dominated by New York and the other by London—and the one dominated by London is the euro.

What worries me is that the think tanks that have been going through this process have an underlying conceit and arrogance, and imagine that somehow we are fundamentally and in the long-term superior, that no one else will have the capabilities that we have, and that in the end, Europe needs us more than we need Europe. But Europe works on a five to 10-year strategy to gradually bring back choice pieces of that industry—and we can see it.

I have a real question for the Minister in all this. The right-wing think tank came up with a solution called “mutual recognition”, which basically required the European Union to change how it made regulation and to change its legal framework completely. The think tank thought that was entirely reasonable. It was irrational, and has been abandoned. The Government have finally recognised that it was complete nonsense. There is now an idea that third-country equivalence could be the mechanism that will apply. However, we all know that third-country equivalence can be cancelled for no reason at 29 days’ notice. That is a very unstable way to provide access for a key industry.

Various attempts have been made, but little thought, effort, discussion or energy has gone into trying to find solutions. I am exceedingly worried about that. Looking at that global sector that I talked about, as I understand it, the European Union has provided an equivalence ruling for the London Clearing House for 12 months only. I am sure that it will extend the ruling beyond that—but it is a message. I understand that, as of this moment, no equivalence has been put in place for the London Stock Exchange. Again, that may come, and it may come very much at the last minute. But there is a deep message in all this. I make a real plea to the Government to take our amendment seriously and to recognise that they will have to get totally engaged and make some real compromises—I suspect around their own red lines. If they do not, they will be making absolutely sure that, over five to 10 years, significant parts of the industry will be sucked back into very capable hands in Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam.

This is not an instant crisis, although there may be some areas of instant crisis. But it is an area where the Government need to move now, and not lock themselves into a position from which they will see this industry, not perhaps disappear altogether, but lose its global leadership, when they could, with more intelligence and flexibility, have provided some degree of protection.