Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Back-Footed by Brussels and the Treasury's to Blame; CITY COMMENT

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Back-Footed by Brussels and the Treasury's to Blame; CITY COMMENT

Article excerpt

Byline: ANTHONY HILTON

SIR Howard Davies, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, sounded the alarm earlier this week about the wave of legislation coming from Brussels.

The commitment made by our political leaders in Lisbon three years ago to create a Europe-wide financial market has turned into "a Financial Services Action Plan made up of 42 lengthy and detailed directives" and on the way the basic principles of openness and flexibility seem to have got lost, he said.

Davies is among the more pro-European of City figures so no one should accuse him of scare-mongering or pursuing an anti-Brussels agenda. Besides, he is largely echoing what Sir David Walker in his capacity as chairman of the London Investment Banking Association said in his last annual report.

Trade associations across London have been warning for months that a deluge of directives is coming. So clearly there is a problem.

Furious efforts will be made - indeed, are already being made - to minimise the damaging effect of some of these directives, but the question we really ought to ask is why this mess has been allowed to happen yet again.

Why is it that nearly 30 years after we joined the Common Market, draft legislation keeps being produced that takes no account of the way business is done in London, the major market? Why is the City incapable of influencing Brussels in the right way at the right time? Why is it always scrabbling to catch up, fire-fighting or trying to organise a blocking action?

One reason, according to Bank of England Governor Sir Edward George, lies in the nature of the City itself. He says the strength of the City is its diversity, for out of that comes creativity and innovation. But the downside is that it is impossible to find one person or body who can represent the whole

Anthony Hilton City. Trying to do so is like herding cats.

But that is not the only reason.

The Treasury, whose job it is to protect City interests in Brussels, has to be the real culprit. …

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