Policy brief

Brexit and the European financial system

Brexit will lead to a partial migration of financial firms from London to the EU27. This Policy Contribution provides a comparison between London and

Publishing date
09 February 2017

London is an international financial centre, serving European and global clients. A hard Brexit would lead to a partial migration of financial firms from London to the EU27 (EU minus UK) to ensure they can continue to serve their EU27 clients.

Four major cities will host most of the new EU27 wholesale markets: Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin and Amsterdam. These cities have far fewer people employed in finance than London. Moreover, they host the European headquarters of fewer large companies. The partial migration of financial firms will thus have a major impact on these cities and their infrastructures.

Banks are the key players in wholesale markets. United States and Swiss investment banks, together with one large German and three large French banks, will make up the core of the new EU27 wholesale markets. Some Dutch, Italian and Spanish banks are in the second tier.

The forex, securities and derivatives trading markets are now in London. We map the current, limited market share of the four major cities that might host the EU27 client business. The expected migration of financial trading will lead to a large increase in trading capacity (eg bank trading floors).

Clearing is the backbone of modern financial markets. A comparative overview of clearing facilities in the EU27 shows that Germany and France have some clearing capacity, but this will need to be expanded. The ownership of clearing is often intertwined with stock exchanges. Were the planned LSE-Deutsche Börse merger to go ahead, LSE would sell the Paris subsidiary of its clearinghouse.

In terms of legal systems, there is an expectation that trading activities will be able to continue under English contract law, also in the EU27. A particular challenge is to develop FinTech (financial technology) in the EU27, as this innovative part of the market is currently based in London.

We estimate that some 30,000 jobs might move from London to the EU27. This will put pressure on the facilities (infrastructure, offices, residential housing) in the recipient cities. The more the European Union market for financial services is integrated, the less need there will be for financial firms to move to one location, reducing the pressure for all facilities to be in one city (see Sapir et al, 2017, which is a companion piece to this paper).

About the authors

  • Dirk Schoenmaker

    Dirk Schoenmaker is a Non-Resident Fellow at Bruegel. He is also a Professor of Banking and Finance at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam and a Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Research (CEPR). He has published in the areas of sustainable finance, central banking, financial supervision and stability and European financial integration.

    Dirk is author of ‘Governance of International Banking: The Financial Trilemma’ (Oxford University Press) and co-author of the textbooks ‘Financial Markets and Institutions: A European perspective’ (Cambridge University Press) and ‘Principles of Sustainable Finance’ (Oxford University Press). He earned his PhD in economics at the London School of Economics.

    Before joining RSM, Dirk was Dean of the Duisenberg school of finance from 2009 to 2015. From 1998 to 2008, he served at the Netherlands Ministry of Finance. In the 1990s, he served at the Bank of England. He is a regular consultant for the IMF, the OECD and the European Commission.

  • Uuriintuya Batsaikhan

    Uuriintuya Batsaikhan, a Mongolian citizen, has worked as an Affiliate Fellow in the area of European and Global Macroeconomics and Governance. She has a Master’s Degree from the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest and a Master of Public Policy Degree specialising in political economy, economic institutions and monetary policy from Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Prior to joining Bruegel, she worked at UNDP in Mongolia and the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin.

    In her Master’s thesis, she analysed access to finance of SMEs during the financial crisis using a dynamic (dis)equilibrium model of credit demand and credit supply. At CEU, she wrote on the divergent means of inflation stabilization in post-transition Poland and Estonia and assessed the role of the Currency Board Arrangement (CBA) employed in Estonia.

    Uuriintuya’s research interests include macroeconomics, banking and monetary policy, access to finance of SMEs and political economy of emerging countries.

    She speaks Mongolian, English, Russian and German.

    Declaration of interests 2016

  • Robert Kalcik

    Robert Kalcik works as research assistant at Bruegel in the area of Energy and Climate with a focus on innovation policy. A native Austrian, he previously worked as data analyst for an international consultancy supporting evidence-based policy making for education authorities in Australia and the Middle East. He conducted research for the Austrian National Bank, the University of Melbourne and the Sustainable Europe Research Institute.

    Robert holds an MSc in Economics from the University of Vienna where his master thesis focused on international environmental agreements. His personal interest lies in machine learning applications and open data.

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