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Opinion

Yellow vests show why banks are delaying Brexit moves

Back-office hubs are at greater risk than London.

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The exodus from London’s financial sector is just beginning. Banks are shifting hundreds of people, and hundreds of billions of pounds in assets, into EU entities. In a no-deal Brexit scenario, these moves could accelerate rapidly. Hundreds of sales and trading staff may have to move across the Channel at short notice.

Yet mass protests since November by the gilets jaunes, or yellow vests – initially against fuel-tax rises – have shown the depth of discontent with president Emmanuel Macron and the centrist, pro-European stance that he represents in France, too. Violent clashes with police on the Champs Elysees, where most foreign banks in Paris are based, effectively burnt the red carpet laid out for bankers departing London.

These events also undermine the idea for banks of a pan-European base in Frankfurt, as France has the power to undo the entire European project much more than Britain, which was always more marginal to it. Frexit, a remote prospect today, could bring banks back to London – or, more likely, to New York – but not just from Paris.

Uncertainty

Across Europe, certainty around EU integration is receding.


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