Brexit and the City

February 3 2015


  • Jacques Lafitte (Avisa Partners)

  • Denis Macshane (European Policy Counsel)

  • Hugo Dixon (Reuters Breakingviews)

  • Matthew Elliott (Business for Britain)


  • Pamphlet The Change We Need: 10 proposals for EU reform (Business for Britain)

  • Book - The In/Out Question: Why Britain should stay in the EU and fight to make it better (Hugo Dixon)

  • Book - Brexit: How Britain will leave the EU (Denis MacShane)


Last July, we organised a round-table on what Brexit (if it ever happened) might mean for the UK financial services sector. On balance, would leaving the EU:

  • open up more possibilities for the UK to exploit fast-growing Asian (and faster-growing North American) markets, making it the offshore financial centre for the world – a sort of super-size Singapore? or
  • shut us off from our natural European hinterland, leaving us to atrophy into a pale shadow of the City we all know and love?

A lot got discussed at the round-table – including the Norwegian and Swiss options, the appeal of NAFTA, the possibility of resurrecting a high-octane “New/Old Commonwealth”, and the protections that the UK might or might not enjoy under the WTO and other multilateral agreements.

Since then, the threat of Brexit hasn’t gone away – and one or two euro-enthusiasts have even decided that it is more, not less, probable. One such is Denis MacShane – who is just about to publish a new book, entitled “Brexit: How Britain will leave the EU” (copies of which will be available at the round-table). As you all know, Denis was Minister for Europe under Tony Blair, and was also the UK’s delegate to the Council of Europe. He certainly doesn’t endorse Brexit; indeed, he deplores it. But he is increasingly scared that Britain is heading for the exit.

Three other speakers are less convinced – albeit from different directions. Two are strong supports of the EU:

  • Hugo Dixon is Reuter’s editor-at-large – a wonderful position that gives him enormous intellectual license, and which he earned as a result of founding BreakingViews (which he sold to Reuters in 2009). He is also the author of “The In/Out Question: Why Britain should stay in the EU and fight to make it better” – which sums up his position rather well.
  • Jacques Lafitte is a former member of Commissioner de Silguy’s cabinet in Brussels, who played a major role in designing and launching the euro. I imagine he is still quite proud of that.
  • The third supports staying in – but only if we can substantially change the EU. Otherwise, Matthew Elliott – chief executive of Business for Britain – is willing to consider the option of exit.

It should be a lively debate. Our relationship with Europe is the single most important issue for the City going forward. Do we stay? Do we go? And, if we stay, do we have any chance at all of reforming the EU – or, more bluntly, remaking it in an Anglo-Saxon image?