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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Global banks seek Brexit exemptions for international staff

The proposal is a core recommendation in a draft report by TheCityUK, which promotes the UK's financial industry

Two anti-Brexit protesters carry flags opposite the Houses of Parliament in London,. Global banks are seeking waivers for their staff to continue working in the British capital after the UK leaves the EU. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Two anti-Brexit protesters carry flags opposite the Houses of Parliament in London,. Global banks are seeking waivers for their staff to continue working in the British capital after the UK leaves the EU. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Global banks in Britain are calling for a special work visa waiver after Brexit to preserve the City of London's standing as a top global financial centre, two industry sources said, a move that would be more generous than the current arrangements.

The finance industry is demanding a new system where international staff posted to Britain for less than six months will be able to come and go freely without having to apply for a work visa before they travel, the sources said.

The proposal is a core recommendation in a draft report by TheCityUK, which promotes Britain's financial services sector, and consultants EY, the sources said.

The report reminds the government that the finance sector must continue to attract top global talent because it the biggest source of corporate tax revenue accounting for 14 per cent of all tax revenue raised in Britain.

The report has been shared with the Home Office and Treasury and is the most detailed request yet by Britain's finance industry to the government about how it wants immigration policy to look after Brexit.

Executives in the City of London, home to global foreign exchange, bonds and fund management operations and to more banks than any other financial centre, have expressed concern that a crackdown on immigration after Brexit may hamper their ability to find staff with the right skills.

The document is due to be formally unveiled in ten days time at an event where the immigration minister Caroline Nokes is due to give a keynote speech.

Currently, companies in Britain can hire or bring in nationals from other EU states without the red tape they face when bringing in an employee from outside the bloc.

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The report is recommending that Britain introduces a "flexible short-term immigration category" for employees of international banks, insurers, asset managers and related professions like lawyers and accountants, the sources said.

The government is expected to outline its future immigration rules later this year and bankers' demand for special exemptions potentially puts the industry still scorned by Britons since the financial crisis on a collision course with large swaths of the public.

Curbing immigration was one for the main drivers for Britons voting to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, following a large influx of EU citizens, especially from poorer countries in eastern Europe.

Potentially even more controversial is the report's call for the "enhanced" immigration system to treat European and non-European staff in the same way after the Brexit transition deal ends in 2020.

The sector is concerned that after Brexit, EU nationals who want to work in Britain will face the same inflexible "caps" or numerical curbs that non-EU nationals already face, the sources said.

Extending these caps to EU citizens would only worsen existing skills shortages, the sources said.

It urges Britain's government to set out a broad, post-transition immigration policy by spring 2019 so that companies have enough time to adjust.

A spokesman for the Home Office was not immediately available to comment.