Official Listing of Securities, Prospectus and Transparency (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 18th February 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Liberal Democrat 8:30 pm, 18th February 2019

I declare my interest as a director of the London Stock Exchange, the relevance of which I am sure your Lordships can appreciate. I sometimes stop and wonder, “Okay, what would actually happen if we didn’t have one of these SIs?” Prospectuses would not go away; we would just have some annoying things to do with the EU and our regulators having to deal with it that would be single-ended, and I am not sure how it would all work. I am not suggesting that that is a solution but I am not sure that we would entirely be falling into a bottomless pit.

I have two fairly generic comments to make about this SI. First, in paragraph 92—I am not quite sure of what; I think it is the impact assessment—there is quite a good explanation of the transfer of functions that has been going on for loads of the statutory instruments that quite often have been debated in a much more lonely way in the Moses Room. As has been said, the Treasury takes over the powers of the Commission and then the binding technical standards go to the regulators. By and large that means that we are not really going to see a great deal of detail because the basic legislation is already done and in our legislation, and from now on significant changes are probably going to come in the technical standards. Of course, we do not have an entirely equivalent position with the EU here because we do not get a vote on the binding technical standards, whereas the European Parliament gets a vote, as indeed does the Council, if it wishes to negate the equivalent standards that come from the European supervisory authorities. From that point of view, it is sad that there has not been some kind of public consultation because it might have been the only sniff that they will ever get at it, unless there are more people like me, who make a nuisance of themselves by responding to the stakeholder consultations that regulators put out.

That was a general statement. There are two asymmetries in this piece of legislation that illustrate what is going on quite a lot of the time. One is that we will continue to recognise EU international financial reporting standards. That is a good thing in terms of openness and the ability and ease with which a prospectus can be done in the UK, but the other side of the coin is that the EU has said that it will not recognise, for example, audits done according to UK IFRS. I do not know whether it will continue with that as a generic ploy—I think it hurts the EU rather than us—but it illustrates the difference in openness and the position that the UK is taking on these things. A similar asymmetry occurs with grandfathering. We are saying, “Okay, if the prospectus has already been agreed before we leave the EU, it will be honoured for the 12-month duration that it’s allowed”, whereas I am afraid the EU has said that it will be cut off at the time of Brexit.

I do not think that those asymmetries harm us at all, but there are quite a lot of them spread throughout and some do operate in a harmful way. There are some of these—what was it?—“distinguished” lawyers who advise companies that they are better to operate out of the EU because the EU will not recognise us, whereas we will recognise the EU. I am not suggesting that we could necessarily operate in a different way, but industry has not always got what it wanted out of these engagements and would have sometimes preferred the Government to be a little more equivocal and to have waited to see on one or two of these things, so that, if you like, the balance of lack of knowledge was roughly the same.