'High risk': London policy chief sounds Brexit jobs alarm

City of London policy chief wants government to continue to recruit overseas talent, and improve housing and transport.

    Catherine McGuinness, Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee of the City of London Corporation says more jobs could be lost from the British capital because of Brexit [File: Hannah McKay/Reuters]
    Catherine McGuinness, Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee of the City of London Corporation says more jobs could be lost from the British capital because of Brexit [File: Hannah McKay/Reuters]

    Britain's vast financial services industry will lose more jobs to Europe in coming years because of Brexit, the City of London's policy chief told the Reuters news agency, warning people not to be duped by the low number of job moves to the continent so far.

    The City of London, home to global foreign exchange, bonds and fund management operations and to more banks than any other financial centre, faces upheaval as firms decide whether to shift jobs to continental Europe to keep serving customers there after Britain is scheduled to leave the EU in two weeks.

    Catherine McGuinness, the political leader of the financial district's municipal body, warned that the country's biggest export sector and biggest source of corporate tax had no "God-given right" to global pre-eminence in finance.

    "The announced job moves at the moment are fairly low. We would expect those to go up," McGuinness said, in an interview in a room off the local government's seat of power in the medieval Guildhall. "It's not the end of the story. This is a moment of high risk for the city."

    Since Britain voted to leave the European Union three years ago, London's financial services industry has been jolted by the prospect of ending four decades of regulatory integration and losing access to the bloc in one fell swoop later this year.

    McGuinness said business leaders had been frustrated by more three years of uncertainty and worries about some of the political momentum behind leaving with no deal.

    "We need the government to stop messing about and get on with sorting out our long-term future on the basis that will allow us to strike up a harmonious relationship with our EU partners going forward," she said.

    'A bad thing'

    Britain and the EU will meet at a summit in Brussels on Thursday in a bid to agree on a divorce settlement, otherwise Britain faces asking for an extension, or a disorderly no-deal departure.

    "A disorderly Brexit would be a bad thing, and I don't think anyone views an extension with enthusiasm. We don't want to see cans kicked down the road," McGuinness said.

    But given that global banks have no loyalty to anyone, she urged the government to help London continue recruiting from international talent, build adequate housing and transport, and keep banks competitive after the United States cut taxes.

    When asked whether she would rather Britain leave the EU without a deal or a socialist government led by the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, McGuinness said it was a hard question to answer.

    "A destructive exit would be a very bad thing," she said. "A government of whatever complexion that did just look at the whole needs of the whole economy would be the better solution."

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency