December 20, 2017 / 1:05 PM / a month ago

Bank of England to spare EU banks from costly new rules, if Brexit goes well

LONDON, Dec 20 (Reuters) - The Bank of England said on Wednesday it planned to spare European banks from costly extra capital requirements once Britain leaves the European Union, but said that could change if Brexit talks turn sour.

Setting out its position for a possible tussle with Brussels over London’s position as a top global financial hub, the BoE said it wanted to ensure it could effectively oversee foreign banks and financial services firms after Brexit.

“The foundation of the Bank of England’s approach is the presumption that there will continue to be a high degree of supervisory cooperation between the UK and the EU,” the BoE said in a statement.

That assumption might be “revisited as Brexit negotiations proceed,” BoE Deputy Governor Sam Woods said in a letter to the bosses of banks and insurers.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said Britain will leave the EU’s single market, raising questions about how companies in Britain will do business in the bloc after Brexit, and how European companies can operate in Britain.

A so-called hard Brexit, under which Britain leaves the EU with no trade deal, would make cross-border supervisory cooperation harder and potentially hurt banks such as Germany’s Deutsche Bank which has a big presence in London.

The BoE said the bigger and more complex the branches of European banks in the UK, the more supervisory cooperation there would have to be to avoid them being classed as subsidiaries, requiring them to park costly extra capital in Britain.

There 77 branches of banks from the European Economic Area, in Britain. There are also 80 branches of insurers from the EEA.

The BoE plans to start the process of reauthorising the branches of up to 200 EEA financial firms in Britain in early 2018. It hopes Britain will secure a Brexit transition deal to start after Brexit in March 2019 to give regulators more time.

The new policy will not affect how banks from outside the EU, such as Japan, Switzerland and the United States are currently supervised by the BoE.

The central bank said retail-focused branches of EU insurers currently operating in Britain will need to become subsidiaries, in line with an existing rule for foreign retail banks.

The BoE will also get powers to “recognise” and supervise clearing houses from the EU after Brexit.

The emphasis on close supervisory cooperation broadens the focus of Brexit negotiations over the financial services industry away from specific financial rules that will be used in Britain and the EU after March 2019.

Britain is keen not to become a “rule taker”, leaving it required to follow news EU regulations indefinitely.

The BoE had said it would let foreign banks know before the end of 2017 whether their existing branches in Britain must reapply for licences to operate after Brexit, or be turned into costlier stand-alone subsidiaries.

Management consultancy Boston Consulting Group estimated that EU banks would have to find up to 40 billion euros if alltheir branches in Britain were turned into subsidiaries.

Earlier this year, BoE Governor MarkCarney called for Britain andthe EU to recognise each others’ bank rules after Brexit, or risk a potentially damaging hit to financial services across Europe.

Germany’s Deutsche Bank has 9,000 staff in London, while France’s BNP Paribas and Societe Generale have 6,500 and 4,000 respectively.   

Carney is due to speak to lawmakers in Britain’s parliament 1315 GMT on Wednesday to discuss the central bank’s views on the financial services sector.

Reporting by Huw Jones and William Schomberg; uk.economics@reuters.com; +44 20 7542 5109

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