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‘Break down EU barriers’

Shadow Treasury Financial Secretary Mark Hoban called for the Government to fight the growing trend of European protectionism if the UK financial services sector is to continue to flourish.

At a British Bankers’ Association and Cicero Consulting fringe event at last week’s annual conference in Bourne-mouth, Hoban said the “hostile protectionism’ of mainland Europe was putting up barr- iers to the industry.

He said the financial serv- ices sector has become “the jewel in the crown” of the British economy by not being precious about ownership of firms and a Tory priority would be trying to convince European sceptics of the benefits of cross-border transactions and acquisitions.

EU internal markets commissioner Charlie McCreevy recently announced plans to reform the financial scrutiny process for cross-border mer- gers due to concerns that protectionist countries were hiding behind prudential requirements to block bids.

Hoban said Tory long-term plans to leave the European People’s Party – the centre-right coalition in the European Parliament -would strengthen rather weaken the UK’s influence in EU areas under a Conservative Government.

The MP for Fareham also told delegates that the ever more noticeable effects of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation on US markets was a stark warning of the destructive role that governments can play by introducing excessive regulation.

But he welcomed recent moves by the Government to ensure that any takeover of the London Stock Exchange by Nasdaq would not mean an increased influence from US regulators over UK financial services.

Hoban said: “What concerns me is the growing tide towards protectionism. One of our priorities is removing some of the controls protecting domestic markets from outside forces. For far too long, this Government has been silent in sticking up for the financial serv- ices sector in Europe.”

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