Barclays's Astaire Says London Banks Able to `Thrive' Outside EU

  • Astaire says London would stay major financial hub on EU exit
  • Barclays executive speaking in parliament hearing in London

Mark Astaire, one of Barclays Plc’s most senior investment bankers, said London would “continue to thrive” as a financial center if Britain opted to leave the European Union.

“Do I think that if the U.K. was to leave the union, London won’t be the leading financial center in Europe in 10 years time? I would have to say no,” Astaire, who is vice chairman of investment banking at Barclays, told lawmakers at a Treasury committee hearing on Wednesday.

Some of the Britain’s leading financiers and business executives have warned a vote to leave the EU -- or so-called Brexit -- would hurt the nation’s economy, force global firms to pull out of the City of London and relocate jobs elsewhere in Europe. JPMorgan Chase & Co. said in a note on Wednesday that financial-services firms would feel the “negative impact of Brexit” most, with British lenders likely hurt by higher funding costs.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said he wants the country to remain in a reformed bloc, will hold a referendum on ending membership before the end of 2017.

‘Expensive Exercise’

Britain exiting the EU would “inevitably be an expensive exercise,” according to Astaire. He spoke on a panel alongside James Chew, group head of regulatory policy and strategy at HSBC Holdings Plc, who called a possible Brexit a “very big disruption.”

London has several “intrinsic advantages” including its location, language and legal system, Chew said. The future of that status in the event of Brexit would depend on “institutional arrangements put in place between the EU and the U.K.,” he said.

HSBC would have to do a lot of work reorganising its operations in Europe if the U.K. opted to leave, according to Chew. Europe’s largest lender, which is currently mulling whether to move its headquarters away from London, could also require a new European center for its continental operations, he said.

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