ALEX BRUMMER: The Bank of England’s Brexit wish list

By now, as Britain approaches the 11th hour in its trade talks with the EU, one might have hoped that the future relationship of the City with the EU might have been settled.

More than four years have passed since the Brexit referendum, and the Bank of England is still trying to define the relationship.

This is rather startling when one considers that financial services are responsible for upwards of 7 per cent of national output, directly employ 1.1m people and account for trade surpluses of £80billion-plus with the rest of the world.

Uncertain future: More than four years have passed since the Brexit referendum, and the Bank of England is still trying to define the relationship

Uncertain future: More than four years have passed since the Brexit referendum, and the Bank of England is still trying to define the relationship

Uncertain future: More than four years have passed since the Brexit referendum, and the Bank of England is still trying to define the relationship

The once favoured talk of mutual recognition and equivalence don’t get a mention in a virtual speech by deputy governor of the Bank of England Sam Woods at the Mansion House. 

The Bank’s top regulator is asking the Government to adopt three principles as it settles on the future shape of Britain’s financial services regime.

Most important is that the UK adopts high regulatory standards, which presumably will avoid Brussels complaining that the Square Mile is somehow trying to win business by allowing risky trades.

Woods is also keen to preserve the UK’s openness as a place to do business welcoming all-comers, whether they come from the EU or the rest of the world.

Finally, he wants to see Britain’s ‘dynamism’ preserved. That means keeping going the ‘rough and tumble’ of the Square Mile, which welcomes innovation such as fintech start-ups, and allows players to enter and leave markets freely.

There has been a view inside the Bank that if some business does drift off to the Continent, there will be no shortage of new activities to pick up the slack. 

These could range from trading the Chinese currency, the renminbi, to issuing green bonds and encouraging tech start-ups such as Monzo and asset management site Nutmeg.

Let’s hope so.

Second life

Britain’s bookmaking giants face a huge task. At a time when they look to rule the world through superior digital technology, they find themselves under pressure to clean up their act. 

One only has to switch on to Premier League games during lockdown to recognise the pressure being exerted on vulnerable and bored consumers.

Against this background, and some fatal cases of gambling addiction, it is encouraging to see that GVC, owner of the Ladbrokes Coral brands, wants to turn over a new leaf. 

New chief executive Shay Segev is seeking to draw a line in the sand with the past. There is to be a name change, from GVC to Entain, which seeks to reach beyond the company’s narrower gambling past towards a new identity in the broader creative sector. 

One might have thought that the Ladbrokes name, associated with its role as the Queen’s favourite bookie, might have had more traction.

The other commitment being made is that from now on Entain will only operate in regulated markets. That should be reassuring given its previous free-booting approach to gambling. 

Embracing the global opportunity offered by being online meant it could operate anywhere. But there are big holes in the new approach.

Segev’s predecessor Kenny Alexander left GVC soon after Turkey disclosed it was investigating the business for ‘corporate offending’. That demonstrates it is possible to get into difficulty in one of the most regulated gambling markets in the world.

Being regulated in Britain has, until now, never stopped GVC from flaunting good governance principles. It was disclosed this week that it has put two Tory MPs on the payroll in the run-up to the long-related government gambling review.

The biggest challenge for GVC is going to come from staying within the regulations in the US. 

The opening of sports gambling in America has offered a terrific opportunity for UK firms and Segev, with his tech background, is well placed to profit through its Bet MGM joint venture.

Keeping a clean pair of heels will be essential as the UK’s global banks HSBC and Standard Chartered know to their cost.

Flight path

Rolls-Royce has managed to raise £2billion through its heavily discounted rights issue, but the 94 per cent take-up is hardly a resounding vote of confidence.

The equity raise will unlock a £2billion debt issue and a further loan package of £1billion. That should be enough funding to see it through the next year and the new hope of a vaccine boost for flying hours.

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