Brexit: Senior bankers warn they could start moving jobs out of London in 2017

Fears over the UK’s economic prospects have knocked the pound below $1.23 on Tuesday

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The Independent Online

Two senior bankers have warned they could start moving jobs out of London next year if the UK appears to be heading for a hard Brexit.

Their comments came as David Davis, the Brexit minister, continued to signal his preference for a hard Brexit even as fears over the UK’s economic prospects have knocked the pound down below $1.23 – a new 31-year low for the currency.

Speaking at a conference in London on Tuesday, James Bardrick, the UK head of US bank Citi, said the main questions businesses have to answer is how quickly they need to act on contingency plans aimed at protecting their businesses should the UK leave the single market.

“How do we and when do we start making decisions ... knowing the plan is ready to go ... it could be in the first quarter of 2017,” he said.

Rob Rooney, the chief executive of Morgan Stanley, gave a blunt warning that jobs would have to move back into the EU if Britain was shut out of the single market.

“It really isn’t terribly complicated. If we are outside the EU and we don’t have what would be a stable and long-term commitment to access the single market then a lot of the things we do today in London, we’d have to do inside the EU 27,” he said.

UK banks fear that a hard Brexit will result in the UK leaving Europe’s single market and therefore the loss of crucial passporting rights, which allow them to sell their services freely across the rest of the EU and give firms based in Europe unfettered access to Britain.

The loss of these rights could be devastating to the City of London as nearly 5,500 firms registered in the UK use passporting rights to operate in other countries.

Meanwhile, John Nelson, the chairman of Lloyd’s of London, who previously described the Brexit vote as a “major issue”, said the Government’s rhetoric on immigration threatens to hurt the UK’s status as a global centre for finance.

“We have to be very clear that the rest of the world is looking very, very closely right now,” Nelson said.

“We have to be careful that we keep the UK open ... and making sure we are able to attract the right talent globally. If we don't do that we will not remain the financial sector that we are today.”

Additional reporting by Reuters