Brexit is like a long-running soap opera, or a comedy. At times it has come close to being a ‘real life’ version of ‘Fawlty Towers’, the comedy series starring Monty Python’s John Cleese as the ‘Little Englander’ manager of a seaside hotel. It has also resembled a Monty Python sketch, as the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, suggested.
But, while we may look on with our mouths wide open in shock at the shambolic mess at the Mother of Parliaments, there are of course serious concerns about the effects of the endless delays. Just yesterday the leaders of the EU 27 granted the UK a further extension until 31st October to sort it out. Is it going to be enough, UK businesses are asking, and they are more fed up with the uncertainty about the future of the UK and its future trading relationship with the EU than many others. And, understandably so. Over the past few months we have heard any number of stories about how the loss of the Single Market and a Customs Union will impact on British businesses in the manufacturing sector, and the automobile industry has already taken a hit, albeit for other reasons as well as Brexit. However, the UK economy relies much more heavily on service industries, especially financial services.
Money is flowing back to the EU
Since the UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016, the passporting rights of the City’s institutions has been of concern. There have been many warnings that the biggest players would decamp to Paris, Frankfurt or Dublin, but so far this hasn’t happened in a major way. However, we have seen money flow out of the UK to the EU. For example, Frankfurt Main Finance noted that it would be moving $800 billion back to Germany this year. And it is estimated that a trillion dollars worth of assets have been relocated from the City to other EU countries.
As Roger Aitken writes for Forbes, the chaos has had a “chilling effect” on financial institutions. How can they plan for the future, or introduce new strategies, when they have no idea what is looming around the corner? As he says: “With no clear framework for how cross-border transactions and interactions will be coordinated in the aftermath of any exit, the desire to take any risks is entirely absent.”
It’s an opportunity for some
Yet there are those who see Brexit as an opportunity. Asaf Elimelech, CEO of trading platform Plus500, which provides online trading services with contracts for difference (CFDs) has noted: “Brexit may be an unwelcome distraction in political terms, but it has been a fertile source of CFD trading opportunities for customers.” However, his seems to be a lone voice in the wilderness.
By contrast, EverFX, the official sponsor of Sevilla FC, has put a halt to its application for a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) licence that would allow it to operate in the UK. Its CEO George Karoullas
said: ““The whole Brexit debacle has spread a feeling of uncertainty across all industries and economies in Europe, and the trading vertical is not an exception. We consider the U.K. one of the most lucrative, interesting, and challenging markets in the world, and were thrilled at exploring what it has to offer.”,
For now the uncertainty potentially continues until the end of October. The City’s financial institutions have no clearer view of whether they will be able to maintain passporting rights that allow EU firms to have a single license in an EU country and apply it across the region’s Single Market without further approval hurdles, and until that is resolved, we can expect to see hope fade and fear increase amongst the financiers and bankers. The drastic effect that Brexit is having, and will continue to have for some time, on the British economy cannot be underestimated, yet the Leave Voters still think it will all be just fine. Perhaps they should reflect on the fact that the rest of the world sees it very differently, and so does business, which is living with fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD).