100,000 Banking Jobs Could Be Lost Following Brexit, Former MEP Warns
But, the politician admits: "If you tell people in Newcastle that 100,000 bankers would lose their jobs, they'll probably be happy."
The seismic shocks from the UK's vote to leave the EU could result in the loss of 100,000 financial jobs from the City of London, according to a former MEP.
Baroness Bowles, a Liberal Democrat peer who was chair of the European parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee for five years, made the warning after France's president, François Hollande, took aim at the UK's financial centre.
She told the British Bankers' Association's annual retail conference that if Hollande has his way, the EU could ban the UK from processing deals in euros, and jobs would be lost.
But she added:
If you tell people in Newcastle that 100,000 bankers would lose their jobs, they'll probably be happy.
The UK has maintained its position as the financial centre of Europe largely thanks to being able to clear all business deals done in euros. But many fear with that power removed, banks will move elsewhere. Frankfurt, the current home of the European Central Bank, is seen as the most likely alternative.
Earlier on Wednesday, at a European summit in Brussels, Hollande declared: "The City, which could handle clearing operations in euros thanks to the UK’s presence in the EU, won’t be able to do them any more."
Bowles, when asked if "it sounds like retribution" from Hollande, said yes.
In a string of much-shared tweets, financial journalist and author Ben Judah laid out a similar analysis:
Bowles also warned that politicians will need to bring uncertainty to an end quickly or stagnation and lack of long-term investment could cause the UK to suffer and potentially slip into a recession.
"You can't invest in something that is so uncertain. ... The lack of investment does cause us to stagnate.
"If you're looking over 10 years [investment] caution is to the fore."
Short-term financing will be fine, she added, since the UK will remain in the EU for at least two years after Article 50 is triggered.
Bowles, who served the European parliament for nine years until 2014, also dismissed Boris Johnson's claim that the UK could have a free-trade agreement without free movement. EU officials told BuzzFeed News he was being "delusional".
She said the links between free movement and free trade "are enshrined in the original treaties and they are not going to shift".
Asked who she would prefer to have negotiating the UK's new relationship with the EU, she suggested chancellor George Osborne, whom she described as "a formidable negotiator".
Bowles said Leave campaigner Michael Gove "doesn't seem to understand the banking system".
Having campaigned for the Remain side, Bowles added that she would be keen to bring in new laws to stop politicians from "lying" during campaigns.
In particular, she attacked the claim by the Leave side that the UK sends the EU £350 million a week, which has been widely ridiculed and now disowned by the campaign.