London: Brexit-backing Trade Secretary Liam Fox indicated that the UK could leave the European Union without having a clear idea of the future relationship with its biggest trading partner.
While the EU has repeatedly said that detailed trade talks won’t take place until after the UK has left, the British government’s public position is that the trade deal will be largely completed before Brexit day in March next year.
“We need to get early sight of what the future economic partnership looks like,” Fox said in a Bloomberg Television interview Wednesday in Hong Kong. “If we can get that before we actually leave the European Union, hopefully by the autumn of this year, that would be a big help to everybody.”
Fox, who said he was “more sure” about Brexit than when he voted for it in 2016, also scotched suggestions that banks are leaving London, pointing to Deutsche Bank AG’s deal for a new headquarters and recent comments from UBS Group AG and HSBC Holdings Plc about keeping staff in the UK.
“They’re not putting their money there because they’re planning to divest,” he said.
Fox was speaking a day after the EU’s latest negotiating stance showed it’s only prepared to offer Britain a bare-bones deal for its financial services companies. Under the plans, the EU would only let UK banks access its market for as long as it considers British rules to be equivalent to the bloc’s — an arrangement that can be rescinded at short notice.
That falls short of UK demands and has been described by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has called “wholly inadequate.”
But Fox said London would retain its financial services position after Brexit.
“I have absolutely no doubt that London will maintain its position of global dominance in financial services,” Fox said. “Why? Because we’ve got a depth of professional service capability that isn’t replicated anywhere else; we’ve got the regulatory and legal frameworks, and we’ve got the reputation of the Bank of England.”