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Banks Choosing Not to Take Sides in Latest Brexit Fight


While Britain continues to debate the possibility of another Brexit referendum, the financial center of London’s financial center seems to be avoiding the argument, accepting the need to push at least some business elsewhere. Burnt by supporting the untoward Remain campaign a few years ago, top global and British banks stated to Reuters that they would be shying away from stating their support in a new vote, instead deciding to spend both time and money on solidifying their business for the future, including making upgrades to outdated technology and pushing into brand new markets.

A recent Reuters survey of leadership opinions at seventeen global and British banks discovered that just six of the eleven responders supported the prospect of a People’s Vote to put an end to a parliamentary impasse on a potential exit deal. Four of the banks stated that they did oppose another vote, while one other said it would remain completely neutral on any and all possible Brexit scenarios and would allow the political process to play out. None of the respondents would be willing to fund a campaign for either outcome at this point.

In preparation for Brexit, Banks have moved billions of pounds worth of client assets to new EU legal entities and transferred approximately 2,000 roles from London out to new hubs in places such as Dublin, Paris and Madrid. But now that preparations are complete, the industry’s top players say they would make no moves to reverse those changes even if Brexit was discarded. Distributing top talent to several European cities has increased the banks’ overall look to some European Union clients and cut costs associated with conducting business in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party announced that it would support a second vote only if Prime Minister Theresa May opts not to modify her withdrawal deal or if no new national election were to take place. One senior banking official said that he thought the odds of a second referendum were increasing, but doubted it would amass anything resembling the same level of backing within finance industry as the first campaign for Remain.

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Citi each donated between 250,000 and half a million pounds to the former Britain Stronger In Europe campaign, according to Electoral Commission data. Lloyds Banking Group, which is Britain’s top mortgage lender, also provided 20,000 pounds for the Remain campaign at a low one percent rate of interest.

A number of bankers including John McFarlane (ex-Barclays chairman) and Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters were among over one-thousand business leaders who expressed their support for the Remain campaign in a publicized letter just one day before Britons voted on the matter in June of 2016. The industry faced accusations of interfering with the political process and was further accused of fueling fears of how Brexit might cause harm the country’s economy.

The six banks declining to participate in the survey cited company policies regarding political polls or differences of opinion within their leadership groups.


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