UK financial sector still resilient ahead of Brexit: data

FILE PHOTO: The Canary Wharf financial district is seen from the construction site of 22 Bishopsgate in London, Britain June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s exports of financial and related services rose to 83 billion pounds ($106.5 billion) last year, with the European Union still the biggest customer, underscoring the importance of retaining market access to the bloc after Brexit.

The latest figures compiled by TheCityUK reflect continued resilience in Britain’s biggest economic sector despite predictions of a decline after the country voted in 2016 by 52% to 48% to leave the EU.

TheCityUK, which promotes Britain’s financial sector abroad, said on Wednesday that net exports of financial and related legal and accounting services grew by 5% to an estimated 82.8 billion pounds in 2018, up from 79 billion pounds in 2017.

Financial services exports alone totaled 61.9 billion pounds last year, making Britain still the world’s leading net exporter in the sector.

Just over 40% of exports went to the EU, followed by 26.6% to the United States.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose Conservative Party won a resounding victory in last Thursday’s national election, has said Brexit is on track for January 31, followed by a business-as-usual transition period to the end of 2020.

But Britain said on Tuesday it would outlaw any extension of the transition period beyond 2020, raising the possibility that the country could end up trading with its most important market on World Trade Organization terms - more burdensome for business.

Britain’s financial sector wants the EU to grant at least some form of basic access to the bloc after the transition ends, though more than 300 banks, insurers and asset managers have opened hubs in the bloc in case this does not happen.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Gareth Jones