Friday 23 February 2018

Minister queries Central Bank Brexit attitude

Central Bank Governor Philip Lane
Central Bank Governor Philip Lane

Gretchen Friemann

The Central Bank has been accused of adopting an "unhelpful attitude" when it comes to processing Brexit-driven inward investment and relocation queries and of "unclear processes" that often result in "lengthy delays" for financial services firms considering relocating or expanding their businesses in Ireland.

The stinging criticisms are contained in a letter written by Financial Services and Insurance Minister Michael D'Arcy and seen by the Irish Independent.

The minister said he wanted to investigate the claims, which had been put to him by some potential investors.

The Central Bank rejected the criticism, and said its approach was in line with "sound regulatory practices agreed across Europe".

In a statement, the Central Bank said it dealt with all enquiries in an "open, engaged and constructive manner".

However, the letter has been circulated to the Central Bank, IDA and industry bodies within the sector in an effort to investigate the claims.

While the minister is careful not to criticise the Central Bank, he details a list of frustrations relayed to him by corporations and questioned whether a formal "mechanism" should be established to "enable companies to articulate their concerns".

Mr D'Arcy said the proposal follows his conversations with a "significant number of financial services companies who are... considering Ireland as an EU 27 location".

After stressing that many companies have "complimented" the Central Bank on "its clear and transparent authorisation process" Mr D'Arcy then details a string of accusations that appear to provide the first tangible evidence of the regulator's intransigence and hard-line attitude.

Over the past year the bank has faced criticism from some politicians for its perceived uncompromising stance.

Mr D'Arcy sets out the charges from international corporations. "The concerns raised by them with me include inter alia: unclear processes; unnecessary delays; unhelpful attitudes; and unreasonable expectations."

The companies have said there appears to be no formal mechanism in place for them to provide feedback and raise their concerns with the bank.

A Department of Finance spokesperson declined to comment on the letter although a Government source described it as "very balanced".

Yet the letter marks the first intervention in the Central Bank's negotiations and raises fears Ireland may be losing out on post-Brexit inward investment.

Earlier this year a number of prominent insurance firms, including AIG and Lloyds of London, opted to set up EU operations on the Continent dealing a blow to the Government's investment hopes.

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