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London is assured a slow decline, but the EU faces its own Brexit challenge

Capital is already shifting out of the UK and people will follow, leaving the big Brexit question: can the EU take advantage to complete its capital markets union?

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Who should be more humiliated: The City of London for losing €6 billion of daily trading volume in European shares on day one after the transition into a real and hard Brexit, or the EU for only being able to recapture that core financial market activity thanks to the UK unloading both barrels into its own feet?

The shift looked remarkable for being so complete and so sudden, and became the perfect story for the first week after the UK became a third country to the EU.

It surprised precisely no one in the City of London, where firms, exchanges and regulators had been preparing for it since the 2016 referendum.

No European city is ever likely to match the sheer scale of financial services – the close collection of global banks, fund managers, lawyers, accountants, market infrastructure providers – that slowly gathered in London during the past 50 years as international capital markets blossomed.

London’s decline as a global financial centre will play out slowly over many years, but there is no doubt that decline is already under way.

Even if the European Commission were to grant UK-based firms generous equivalence judgements in the 12 months ahead – which it almost certainly won’t – the money is already leaving.

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