June 1, 2023

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Hunt launches sweeping financial reforms ‘to seize on our Brexit freedoms’

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Hunt launches sweeping financial reforms ‘to seize on our Brexit freedoms’

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt is set to announce a range of reforms which will lift regulations on the financial sector aimed at increasing the City of London’s competitiveness.

The Chancellor’s proposals — published online this morning — include a relaxation of rules on what banks can do with their money; a new requirement for regulators to make London more competitive internationally; and scrapping red tape that holds back the stock market.

The 30-point reform package, dubbed the “Edinburgh Reforms”, is being billed as the biggest shake-up since Margaret Thatcher’s wave of deregulation in the 1980s. 

Ministers are selling the reforms as being a flagship example of “Brexit opportunities”.

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Jeremy Hunt said: “We are committed to securing the UK’s status as one of the most open, dynamic and competitive financial services hubs in the world.

“The Edinburgh Reforms seize on our Brexit freedoms to deliver an agile and home-grown regulatory regime that works in the interest of British people and our businesses.

“And we will go further – delivering reform of burdensome EU laws that choke off growth in other industries such as digital technology and life sciences”.

A government statement said: “The government’s approach to reforming the financial services regulatory landscape recognises and protects the foundations on which the UK’s success as a financial services hub is built: agility, consistently high regulatory standards, and openness”.

“This will ensure the sector benefits from dynamic, proportionate regulation and that consumers and citizens benefit from high quality services, appropriate consumer protection and from a sector that embraces the latest technology”.

At a glance, the reform package includes:

  • Reforming the ring-fencing regime for banks
  • Issuing a new remit letters for the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with clear, targeted recommendations on growth and international competitiveness
  • Launching a call for evidence on reforming the short selling regulation
  • Overhauling the UK’s regulation of prospectuses
  • Committing to establish the independent Investment Research Review
  • Committing to having a regime for a UK consolidated tape in place by 2024
  • Consulting on reform to the VAT treatment of fund management
  • Consulting on a UK retail central bank digital currency alongside the Bank of England in the coming weeks
  • Publishing a response to the consultation on expanding the investment manager exemption to include cryptoassets

However, not everyone is convinced that scrapping a number of regulations imposed after the 2008 financial crash will benefit the economy.  

Lord Adair Turner, chair of the Financial Services Authority in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, agreed: “It is a mistake to give the regulators of the finance sector a competitiveness objective”.

But City minister Andrew Griffith insisted in an interview with the Financial Times that “no one is going for a race to the bottom” on regulation and said it was “absolutely the right time” to revisit post-2008 rules.

Chris Hayward, the policy chairman at the City of London Corporation, agreed with Griffith’s assessment. He said: “We need the help of good growth and good regulation at the same time, they are two sides of the same coin.

“It’s not a race to the bottom, in my view, it’s a chance to actually grow our economy and I think we should be very excited about it. It’s positive news for financial services”.

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