November 23, 2017 / 2:15 PM / a year ago

Brexit putting Europe's UK friendship to the test - ECB's Villeroy

LONDON (Reuters) - Top European Central Bank policymaker Francois Villeroy de Galhau said Britain’s divorce with the European Union was putting strain on its friendship with the bloc, and that deregulation would put global financial systems on course towards another crisis.

FILE PHOTO -- Governor of the Bank of France Francois Villeroy de Galhau attends a press conference after the Franco-German Financial Council meeting in Berlin, Germany, September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo

With the outcome of Brexit negotiations difficult to predict, Villeroy emphasised both parties had to work together to ensure a mutually beneficial outcome.

“We are indeed going through a difficult period which puts the friendship between our countries to the test,” Villeroy, who is also governor of the Bank of France, said in London at an event by the French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain.

The structure of the European financial system will have to evolve as a result of Brexit, he said in a prepared speech, also emphasising that all banks and companies should prepare to avoid any potential cliff-edge risk.

British banks should not get passporting rights to operate in Europe if they do not accept single market rules, and euro clearing activities for “super systemic” institutions must be located in the currency bloc, Villeroy said.

Paris has “obvious advantages” as a financial centre, he added, saying he was “proud and happy” the French capital had on Monday won the right to host the European Banking Authority after it vacates London.


The euro area recovery is robust and broad-based across countries and sectors, Villeroy added, saying the ECB’s accommodative monetary policy has helped spur growth.

Euro zone forward-looking economic sentiment data beat all forecasts on Thursday, cementing a more optimistic outlook for businesses in the bloc.

The ECB has not yet reached its inflation goal, and it must maintain an ample degree of stimulus, he said, adding however that inflation was at a much better level than 18 months ago.

In a Q&A after his speech, the central banker sidestepped a question on his potential ambition to take over the ECB presidency from Mario Draghi in 2019.

“This is not a topic of discussion,” Villeroy said.

Turning to the French economy, the central banker said President Macron’s push to reform the labour market and reduce taxes would have a “significant” impact on growth and employment.

The most pronounced risks to the global economy came from shifts towards “unilateral deregulation” and protectionism, in particular from the U.S. since the election of President Trump, Villeroy said.

“Unilateral deregulation would be nothing less than a lose-lose scenario with serious consequences for the stability of the global financial system - we would be paving the way for the next financial crisis,” he said.

In a separate speech on Wednesday, Villeroy had said tougher financial regulation should not, however, hinder potential cross-border bank mergers in Europe, over which speculation has been swirling in recent weeks.

Minutes from the ECB’s meeting last month, also published on Thursday, showed policymakers broadly agreed on extending its asset purchase scheme but that a decision to keep the bond buys open-ended generated fiercer debate.

Reporting by Helen Reid, Editing by Marc Jones

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