I looked around on this site and couldn't find anything close to what I'm asking on Economics SE, so I hope it is the right place to ask. I am interested in but have no background in economy, so all my assumptions are based on what I have read in European newspapers over the past weeks and months.

Before the Brexit referendum one argument of the "remain" supporters was that London as a whole profited very much from Britain's EU membership. With the free flux of people and money within the EU London could establish/defend its role as an international financial center. Many banks chose London as their seat as they could have access to the EU from an international and English-speaking environment. It was also argued that London acts as a bridge between Europe and North America.

After the Brexit vote I read that many financial institutes consider leaving (or preparing to leave) London in favor of some other places. I have no idea how a typical day of someone working in the financial area looks like, but from my position I do not really see a big impact if Britain leaves the EU. Several disadvantages already exist today, like varying Euro-Pound exchange rates or border controls. The only real reason I can think of is that there may be higher costs on financial transactions between the UK and the EU. Is that all? How would London's financial market be affected should the UK definitely leave the EU?

Also, where would these institutions go? The most frequently heard names are Frankfurt and Paris. Paris as the capital of the second-largest economy in Europe with strong presence of financial industry, and Frankfurt as the main financial center of Germany with important institutions like the European Central Bank. Arguments against are that in Paris it will be rather difficult to communicate in English in everyday life, and Frankfurt is a relatively small city (while I don't know how that alone would be a disadvantage). So what would be potential alternatives for a firm deciding to leave London?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Read this article today in the Telegraph, maybe it will be of interest to you: telegraph.co.uk/property/news/… $\endgroup$
    – Kelly
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ London's financial services sector employs a number close to half the population of Frankfurt. Allow for children, students and the retired and that could mean no other jobs in Frankfurt at all: no shops or street cleaners or teachers or bus drivers. And that is why size matters. $\endgroup$
    – Henry
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ Financial industry is never a "self-sustainable" industry itself. Financial derivative is anything but Ponzi scheme without the support of production industry. UK diminishing industries will not help in such case. While in fact before the infamous PIGGS , the Europe economy crisis started from UK. $\endgroup$
    – mootmoot
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 16:48

2 Answers 2


London remained for long as a key financial centre for Europe due to several reasons:

  • Historic: several universities and authors dedicated to the study of wealth (Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, Keynes
  • Combination of privileged international positions with US (language + colonization) and commonwealth countries, as well as an average sized internal market
  • Looser regulation than most countries in EU, providing lower barriers to entrepreneurship
  • Fairly efficient justice system
  • Management and investor attitude: social class or country of origin is less of an obstacle than in France, investors not as conservative as in Germany

Comparing these factors to other large cities in Europe, it will be hard to match it.

In Germany, Munich or Berlin could be more attractive for investors than Frankfurt. Paris would be the favorite in France, but regulation doesn't attract investors nor entrepreneurs - so Amsterdam or Luxemburg would be much more inviting in this regard.


Concerning why the UK financial sector might be so adversely affected, I understand a central issue may be the "financial passports".

These passports are basically a set of rules that permit one bank to operate in the rest of the EU, so a foreign bank may install a subsidiary in London and then branches out to the continent.

Critically, these passports come with the package of EU rules, notably freedom of movements for migrants. Therefore, it seems the bets are the UK will be willing to lose them at the end of the negociations. Some capacities to manage assets in the EU from the City migth also be lost and there is the prospect that a major euro clearing house operating outside the direct perview of the union may face agressive regulation post-brexit.

Disclaimer: this is my understanding from non-scientific readings. I heartily recommend this article to sum most of it up.


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