Big banks to speed up Brexit exodus from City
Big investment banks with their European headquarters in London will start the process of moving jobs from the UK within weeks of the government triggering Brexit, a faster timeline than their public messages of patience would imply, according to sources.
Dismayed by the lack of a clear plan to protect the UK's status as a global financial hub, executives are planning for the worst - that they will lose the right to sell services freely around the European Union from the City.
Facing a long process with potential waits for regulatory approvals before workers can pack their bags, banks want to start quickly in order to have new or expanded offices set up in Europe before the end of the two-year Brexit negotiation period.
"This year is all about understanding potential scenarios, your options, and what your contingency plans are," said Andrew Gray, head of Brexit for UK financial services at PwC, which is advising banks on how best to respond to Brexit.
"Some plans will take time to execute, and firms can't afford to wait until January 1, 2019, and risk not being able to do business."
While UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will fight for the City of London to retain its passporting rights, bankers and lawyers say she faces an uphill battle trying to win concessions from EU partners still smarting from the outcome of the June 23 vote.
Bank executives are privately discouraged that seven weeks after the referendum, the ministers in charge of negotiating the best deal for the UK believe they can retain the benefits of being in the single market without accepting the free movement of EU citizens.
Given the limited number of suitable destinations to relocate operations, and the shortage of prime real estate in those cities, banks are in a race against each other to secure the best office space and accommodation for the thousands of workers they would eventually move from the UK. (Bloomberg)