Interview de Pierre Gramegna dans le "Lëtzebuerger Gemengen"

"Brexit: building good bridges"

Interview – Publié le

Interview: Luxembourg for Finance

Luxembourg for Finance: You were in London at the end of July with Minister Schneider. What was the post-referendum atmosphere like?

Pierre Gramegna: Before the referendum, there was a lot of uncertainty for investors and the leave vote has prolonged this for another two and half years at least. It is going to be a tough time for people in business and government.

Luxembourg for Finance: What do you think will happen next? What will be the best way to bring back the necessary stability?

Pierre Gramegna: First of all, the UK has to trigger article 50 and we have already heard from the government that this will not happen this year, meaning that formal negotiations will have to remain on hold for another few months. Although there has been some contact, it has been really informal. Neither the UK, nor the other 27 member states have been able to set out their positions, which will take time because this is the first time a country has chosen to leave the European Union. It has become clear that the UK had no plan B and the government has explained that it will need a few months to spell out its position. Both sides are in a "wait and see" mode and will need time to do their homework.

Luxembourg for Finance: Taking into account that we are in a "wait and see" mode, how can Luxembourg assist financial institutions based in London?

Pierre Gramegna: As the negotiations will take at least another two and half years, it means the UK will still be part of the European Union during this time and we should all make the most of this. This is not going to be easy, because we don't know what the final outcome of the negotiations is going to be. However, we do know that those companies in Switzerland, which is outside the EU, have solutions to deal with the fact that they do not have full access to the single market. These often include having a substantial presence in Luxembourg to access the single market. Luxembourg thus acts as a European hub for Swiss banks to serve clients' needs in wealth management, capital markets, treasury and other financial functions. The EEA countries, Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland, have their own ways of dealing with EU market access. In return for access, these countries are obliged to implement all the EUs laws relating to the internal market. They have participation rights, but no voting rights. Probably Britain wants to choose a third way. A British solution sui generis. After all, its situation is different to Switzerland and the EEA countries, which have never been members.

Luxembourg for Finance: There is a lot of talk about competition between financial centres on the continent to lure business out of London, yet Luxembourg's messages seem to be more accommodating than other financial centres. Why is that?

Pierre Gramegna: First of all, Luxembourg does not want to behave as if the UK had already left the EU. The UK is a partner and we need to take full consideration of that. The financial centre of London is also the main partner for the international financial centre in Luxembourg. We want to continue that cooperation and even develop it in the future, especially in view of a changing legal framework. Luxembourg's goal is not to take away business from London, but to find ways and means to keep working together, whatever the framework will be in the future. On the day the UK leaves the EU, London will still be one of the most important financial centres in the world and there will still be good bridges built between it and Luxembourg.

Luxembourg for Finance: Luxembourg has been doing business with London for a long time. What do the two financial centres have in common?

Pierre Gramegna: London and Luxembourg are truly international financial centres, which are set up to attract investors inside and outside the EU. This is a common feature which is evident in the way both our countries have reacted to different initiatives proposed by the EU Commission to regulate the internal EU market and financial services industry. It has been a concern for both of us that whatever is done within the EU must be compatible with non-EU countries. In certain business areas, both our financial centres are really complementary. In the field of funds, for example, Luxembourg is the location for international fund administration and distribution. While these funds are often managed in London, it is Luxembourg that has the infrastructure, the accounting, or risk management. This division of labour has served us both well. We need to keep that complementarity even tomorrow. The way we achieve that will depend on the final result of the negotiations.

Luxembourg for Finance: What will be the main challenges during the negotiations?

Pierre Gramegna: As a Finance Minister, I tend to focus on things related to financial services, but this is just one of many things. Other factors include security, free movement of labour and people, British citizens living in the EU, EU citizens residing in the UK, the list goes on... For financial services though, the key issue will be whether the UK maintains access to the single market or not. Will there be full access (unlikely), partial access (following negotiations), or no access at all? It is very hard to see a situation where the 27 remaining member states allow the UK to keep three out of the four freedoms (goods, services and capital) but have restrictions on the free movement of people. Finding the right balance will be challenging.

Luxembourg for Finance: Do you think many banks or asset management companies are likely to leave London?

Pierre Gramegna: London has a large and important financial centre and I don't see that changing. Companies based in London will have to adapt and will probably need to expand their presence in the EU. That does not mean they will leave London though - I see it as an optimisation of their presence on the continent rather than a closing down in London to open up shop somewhere else.

Luxembourg for Finance: Luxembourg might lose a market friendly ally once Britain has left the EU. What are your views on future financial regulation in the EU?

Pierre Gramegna: We need to stay in close contact with the UK on those issues that are close to both our hearts. I think of all the Directives that are part of the capital markets union, which is one of the key projects to make the EU more competitive in terms of financial services. Fortunately, that project has been put on rails already one year ago by the EU Commission and I am very keen that the CMU will be implemented as quickly as possible. As the UK is part of the EU for at least 2.5 more years, I think a large part of the agenda of the capital markets union will be achieved by then. If we achieve that, we will then have a very interesting point of discussion. What will happen with these common rules once the UK leaves? The capital markets union will broaden and deepen the EU single market for capitals and it would be an incentive for the UK to maintain close links with the EU.

Luxembourg for Finance: Independently from Brexit, where do you see the strongest growth for the Luxembourg financial centre in the future?

Pierre Gramegna: The strongest growth will be in Fin Tech and in the fund industry. Both will continue to grow in a major manner in the next few months and years. The assets under management figures in the fund industry have been growing double digits since 2014. Fin Tech is a field where Luxembourg has been present historically with leading e -commerce and e -payment companies and we can build on that. Many Fin Tech companies are looking at Luxembourg from the outside and also players in Luxembourg are very excited about that sector. That's why the government has decided to launch a Luxembourg House of Financial Technology. I am looking forward to inaugurate the LHoFT next year in spring and even before that there will be some softlaunch events.

Source: Luxembourg for Finance