Newspaper article International New York Times

Briton Gets Key E.U. Post Overseeing Financial Sector

Newspaper article International New York Times

Briton Gets Key E.U. Post Overseeing Financial Sector

Article excerpt

Jonathan Hill, a former lobbyist who is now a Conservative member of the House of Lords, will oversee the financial services sector.

In an unexpected appointment that delighted the British government and the City of London alike, a Briton was nominated on Wednesday to a crucial financial leadership post in the European Union.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the incoming president of the European Commission, tapped Jonathan Hill, a former lobbyist who is now a Conservative member of the House of Lords, to oversee the financial services sector.

It looked to be a hand extended across the English Channel, aimed at soothing relations between Brussels and London and easing worries by many British business and political leaders that they have lost influence at the commission, the European Union's executive arm.

Prime Minister David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, had vociferously opposed the appointment of Mr. Juncker to the presidency of the European Commission. Mr. Cameron argued that Mr. Juncker, a former prime minister and finance minister of Luxembourg who presided over the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, had spent his career consolidating power in Brussels at the expense of member states and was the wrong person to lead a reform agenda.

Mr. Cameron's government has also opposed a number of key European Union efforts to rein in what many on the Continent see as the excesses of the corporate and investment worlds, including caps on executive bonuses and a tax on financial transactions. Financial services represent 7 percent of the British economy.

Mr. Cameron, if his government is re-elected next year, has also pledged to hold a national a referendum on the country's membership in the European Union by 2017.

Mr. Hill's appointment may alleviate some of that concern. "It's a massive olive branch to say to the U.K. 'you matter to Europe,"' said Graham Bishop, a consultant on European integration based in London.

Mr. Hill would replace Michel Barnier of France in a sensitive role that includes deciding how banks in financial centers like the City of London should be regulated. "My starting point is that there is much work to do to build on the important legacy of Michel Barnier to ensure we have stable and well regulated financial markets." Mr. Hill said in a statement.

Mr. Hill, who is formally known as Lord Jonathan Hill of Oareford, has held several positions in various Conservative governments, including that of John Major in the 1990s and Mr. Cameron, for whom he was a junior education minister. Last year Mr. Hill became leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords. He has also worked extensively as a lobbyist, founding Quiller Consultants, with many clients in the financial services sector.

His fluid movement between the halls of government and lobbying raises red flags for some. …

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