UK hopes fade over bank site: EC trademark office likely to be Britain's consolation prize

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BRITAIN has given up hope of hosting the European Central Bank, and instead officials in London and Brussels are hinting that another large European institution - possibly the trademark office - will be its prize.

The sites of a number of new institutions are likely to be decided at a forthcoming summit in Brussels. One, the European Monetary Institute, which is the embryo of the European Central Bank, is almost certain to go to Germany, though it may not be sited in Frankfurt, home of the Bundesbank.

Britain, France and Spain want to keep it outside Germany's premier financial centre. Germany has suggested Mainz, but this is virtually a suburb of Frankfurt. Bonn is thought more likely, given the movement of some government offices to Berlin.

As Britain is not a member of the European exchange rate mechanism and has a deal permitting it to opt out from a single currency, its case for the EMI has been weakened. John Major vetoed an attempt to agree on a German site at the Lisbon summit in 1992, but Britain was alone.

Most foreign exchange dealings made by either the EMI or the ECB will have to go through London anyway, say officials in London and Brussels.

Equally, with the virtual collapse of the ERM and the weakening of hopes for a single currency by 1997, the importance of the EMI now looks diminished.

Britain has been trying since 1986 to get the European Community trademark office, which will have about as many employees - 200 or so - as the EMI. Britain is one of the world's most important centres for intellectual property, copyright and trade mark activity.

Another possibility is the Environmental Evaluation Agency, which will have about 50 staff, though this is less likely.