* Lucy Neville-Rolfe handed new Brexit role
* City Minister Simon Kirby unpopular with industry
* Role seen as vital in upcoming Brexit talks
By Andrew MacAskill, Anjuli Davies and William Schomberg
LONDON, March 1 Britain has sidelined the
minister responsible for financial services from addressing the
impact on the sector of leaving the EU, a shakeup that a senior
bank executive called a "vote of no confidence" in the
industry's main government contact.
Lucy Neville-Rolfe, commercial secretary at the Treasury,
has had Brexit's impact on financial services added to her
official portfolio, the Treasury said on Wednesday, confirming a
change that had been made without fanfare several weeks ago.
The responsibility of answering questions in parliament
about Brexit's impact on financial services has previously
fallen to Simon Kirby, the Treasury's economic secretary.
Kirby's post is known informally as "City minister", as the
government's liaison to the finance industry based in the City
of London, the capital's banking district.
"Clearly, it's a sign of a vote of no confidence in Kirby,"
said one senior bank executive, one of several industry figures
who discussed the change in roles on condition of anonymity to
avoid taking sides publicly in a political personnel matter.
"Kirby is not responsible for Brexit even though it's the
biggest issue facing the City."
Neville-Rolfe and Kirby both report to Treasury Secretary
Philip Hammond. Kirby is listed ahead of Neville-Rolfe in the
ranking of junior ministers on the Treasury's website.
The Treasury said Kirby would still have the same role as
his predecessors as City minister, overseeing the government's
overall relationship with the financial sector. Having a second
minister look at Brexit reflected "the importance we place on
this area", it said in an email to Reuters in response to a
request for comment on the change.
Of the seven people who have held the post of City minister
since it was created in 2008, Kirby, 52, is the first without
either a background in financial services or a PhD in economics.
Britain's position as Europe's financial centre is emerging
as one of the main issues of contention in talks over the terms
of its exit from the EU. Some European politicians see an
opportunity to challenge British dominance of finance after
decades of viewing its free-wheeling "Anglo-Saxon" model of
capitalism with suspicion.
The industry figures who spoke to Reuters said bankers in
London had been complaining quietly for months that Kirby, who
founded a radio station and a chain of nightclubs in the seaside
town of Brighton before going into local politics, seemed to
lack expertise in their field.
Several said their concerns grew after a meeting Kirby held
with senior finance executives in November, at which he appeared
unable to answer questions about government policy. They said
they were happier with Neville-Rolfe, 64, a former senior civil
servant, executive at Britain's biggest supermarket chain Tesco
and non-executive director of a number of large businesses.
(Editing by Peter Graff)