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BERLIN (Reuters) - The City of London offers financial services that benefit Europe as a whole and the European Union should recognise that in a "reasonable" Brexit deal with Britain, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in a newspaper interview.
"We don't want to punish the British for their decision," Schaeuble said in a pre-released interview with the Sunday edition of Tagesspiegel. "We want to keep Britain close to us."
"London's financial centre serves the whole European economy," he added. "London offers a quality of financial services that are not to be found on the continent. That would change a bit after a separation, but we have to find reasonable rules here with Britain."
British Prime Minister Theresa May is due to launch formal divorce talks with the EU by the end of March, leaving banks, insurers, asset managers and markets wondering how they can serve customers on the continent in future.
Currently, they use an "EU passport" allowing them to operate across the 28-nation bloc from a base in Britain.
EU leaders say access to the single market can only be granted in return for accepting the free movement of EU citizens and complying with rulings from the bloc's top court, both of which are unacceptable to many of those who voted for Brexit.
Alternatives to passporting mainly include "third-country regimes" or TCRs, whereby the EU allows British financial firms to serve continental customers on condition they abide by rules similar to those in the binloc.
Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Helen Popper