Belfast Telegraph

'Almost no appetite' among Britain's banks for UK to leave EU

Britain's banks have "almost no appetite" for the UK to leave the European Union and nearly two-thirds believe Brexit could harm their business, according to a survey.

The British Bankers' Association (BBA) said almost 60% of banks polled feared a "negative impact" on their organisation if the UK voted to leave the EU, with 26% saying the impact would be significant.

It also found that of those that had a position on the referendum outcome, 98% said the UK remaining in the EU was in the bank's best interest.

Anthony Browne, chief executive of the BBA, said: "Our survey shows there is almost no appetite from banks for the UK to leave the EU.

"The single market is of crucial importance to the UK banking industry, which employs over half a million people, contributes over £31 billion in tax a year, and is the country's biggest export industry."

But he said the BBA would take a "neutral position" on the referendum debate, given that the majority of its members - 63% - had not expressed a position on whether the UK should remain in the EU.

Just over 50% of the BBA's 147 voting members responded to the survey, which the BBA said representsed 90% of the UK banking sector workforce.

High street giants Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland have previously said they want Britain to remain in the EU, while HSBC warned it could move around 1,000 investment banking jobs to Paris in the event of a Brexit.

Lloyds Banking Group also recently warned in its annual report that a vote to leave could "create a period of uncertainty" and hamper companies' investment plans, as well as potentially leading to higher interest rates.

Lucy Thomas, deputy director of the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign, said: "Banks and their customers benefit from the stability provided by our EU membership and the single financial passport that allows banks to operate across Europe.

"This passport is not available to any country outside the EU so would be a massive loss for banks in Britain, forcing some to relocate."

Chancellor George Osborne restated his view that Brexit would deliver a shock to the UK economy.

Speaking to the House of Commons Treasury Committee, he said: "I think our exit from the EU would cause an economic shock, or a convulsive shock, as it's been described recently, and that would have an impact on prices and GDP and the like.

"That's not just my judgment, that's a judgment expressed by a whole range of independent observers of the British economy who have no skin in the game."