LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s financial sector will continue to function properly whatever form Brexit takes, a junior minister said on Tuesday, though the head of an industry body said it would back proposals to avert Britain leaving the EU without a withdrawal deal.
Britain is due to leave the European Union next month, but has not yet agreed a divorce settlement with the bloc, creating uncertainty and fears about a potentially disorderly departure.
“We are very focused at the Treasury for preparing for any outcome,” junior finance minister Robert Jenrick told the annual conference of the Association of British Insurers.
Britain is putting EU law onto its statute books.
“This will ensure that whatever the outcome of the exit from the European Union, we have a functioning financial services regime,” Jenrick said.
However, Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), described the prospect of a no-deal Brexit as “Project Madness”.
British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Tuesday propose formally ruling out a no-deal Brexit in an attempt to avoid a rebellion by lawmakers who are threatening to grab control of the divorce process, The Sun newspaper reported.
The CBI would back proposals that would take a no-deal Brexit off the table, Fairbairn told a conference panel.
“Businesses want a deal, they know that no deal must be averted.”
Several EU states have pledged to put in place laws to help avoid the worst fallout from any hard or no-deal Brexit.
But a regulatory source told Reuters that these laws have yet to be put into effect by EU member states.
“Sadly, I am ashamed to say I cannot give you the reassurance that you deserve. It is our duty to put you in a position of greater certainty and that is what we are trying to do,” Jenrick said.
The insurance sector is a British success story, contributing £30 billion to the economy annually, but it must continually adapt to keep up with developments such as financial technology, or fintech, he said.
“We cannot assume the UK is predestined to remain at the heart of this market for ever,” Jenrick said.
He said the government would publish a proposal to ensure that regulation in financial services and other sectors like utilities stayed “smart and nimble” after Brexit.
Reporting by Huw Jones and Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Ed Osmond and Mark Potter