April 10, 2019 / 9:48 AM / in 9 days

French official calls on EU watchdog to rethink Brexit stocks trading ban

HONG KONG/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The European Union’s markets watchdog should reconsider its ban on trading thousands of shares outside the bloc if there is a no-deal Brexit, a senior French government official said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: A worker looks at their phone as they walk past The Gherkin, Lloyds, and other office buildings in the City of London, Britain November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) stunned exchanges last month when it said that if Britain leaves the EU without a deal, 6,200 mostly EU-listed shares, but also 14 UK stocks, could only be traded on platforms inside the bloc.

London is Europe’s biggest share trading center and is used by fund managers from across the continent, who would be forced to accept less attractive prices if cut off from Britain.

“The good thing is that ESMA has taken a decision. Sometimes you see that in other places it is difficult to have a decision,” said Sebastien Raspiller, head of the financial sector department at France’s finance ministry.

“The bad news is that the decision was not good, so I hope that ESMA would be able to reconsider its position,” Raspiller told the annual meeting of derivatives industry body ISDA in Hong Kong.

ESMA declined to comment.

Britain’s markets watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), now has to decide whether to reciprocate with its own ban on trading UK and even some liquid EU shares outside the United Kingdom.

“I can’t rule it out,” FCA Chief Executive Andrew Bailey told reporters in Washington.

“We have to solve the issue in the short term. We are in very close contact with ESMA on that.”

ESMA’s so-called “share trading obligation” decision has been described by some industry officials as a “land grab” by an EU keen to build its own capital markets as Britain leaves the bloc.

EFAMA, the European funds industry body, said it has called on the EU’s executive, the European Commission, to grant trading platforms in London access to EU customers in the event of a no-deal Brexit to avoid “negative implications” for asset managers and end investors.

Pan-European share trading platforms Cboe, Turquoise (part of the London Stock Exchange) and Aquis Exchange have had to change their no-deal Brexit plans in recent days following ESMA’s ruling, warning that splitting trading liquidity would hurt investors.

Bailey said the best solution is for the EU to grant “temporary equivalence” or allowing cross-border share trading to continue for a fixed period after a no-deal Brexit - a step the EU has already indicated for clearing derivatives.

“We should live in a world where we do not have share trading obligations. People should decide where they want to trade,” Bailey said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is asking EU leaders on Wednesday for a further delay to Brexit until at least the end of June, and Raspiller said uncertainty over Brexit was damaging for market participants.

Reporting by Alun John in Hong Kong; Writing and additional reporting by Huw Jones in London; Editing by David Holmes, Kirsten Donovan and David Goodman

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