March 22, 2018 / 9:40 PM / in 7 months

UK minister urges regulators to reassure banks on Brexit transition

LONDON (Reuters) - European Union regulators should offer financial firms reassurances that they can carry on operating as usual during the 20-month Brexit transition deal agreed this week, British financial services minister John Glen said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The Canary Wharf financial district is seen at dusk in London, Britain, November 17, 2017. Picture taken November 17, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Banks want British and EU regulators to tell them that they won’t need all their Brexit contingency plans in place by March next year, when Britain leaves the bloc - meaning they can rely on the transition deal agreed between Britain and the European Union.

But European regulators including Andreas Dombret of the Bundesbank have said this month’s transition deal will not be legally ratified until later in the year, and therefore banks should get new EU hubs ready by next March in case there is a “hard” Brexit.

“Until the transition deal is ratified there is reluctance on the part of some regulators to make unambiguous statements,” Glen told reporters on Thursday.

“There is no need for any ambiguity to exist because once the political agreement is secure on transition period then I expect regulators to make reasonable and appropriate reassurances,” Glen said.

The Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority have issued no statement on Monday’s transition deal.

EU summit chair Donald Tusk said on Wednesday the bloc’s leaders will on Friday offer Britain a transition deal. But a draft of the deal showed it will only be finalised once outstanding issues such as the Irish border are resolved.

FILE PHOTO: A man takes a photograph of the Canary Wharf financial district from Greenwich Park in London, Britain, January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

Financial firms in Britain are concerned about what sort of access they will have to the EU market after the transition period ends in December 2020.

In draft guidelines this week, the EU referred to “reviewed and improved equivalence mechanisms” administered on a “unilateral” basis by the EU.

Equivalence refers to Brussels granting market access to foreign financial firms if it deems their home rules to be as strict as those enforced in the bloc.

Brexit has prompted Brussels to toughen up its equivalence rules for foreign clearing houses and investment banks.

Glen said the EU guidelines helpfully recognised that financial services have to be dealt with.

“The EU equivalence regime does not give financial institutions in Britain the level of security they need,” Glen said.

Britain and its banks want a more ambitious “mutual recognition” trade pact whereby Britain and the bloc accept each other’s rules to allow cross-border business to continue.

Such a trade deal in financial services has never been done before and one banker said this week that mutual recognition could be a pipe dream.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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