European commissioner for internal markets Michel Barnier has attacked UK eurosceptics for pursuing a pick-and-mix approach to EU financial services regulation.
Speaking at a Policy Network conference on Europe in London last week, Barnier said differences between the UK and EU on financial services have been “exaggerated”.
Prime minister David Cameron has promised to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and then hold an in/out referendum in 2017. Barnier said the UK should “think very carefully” about including financial services regulation in the renegotiation.
This year the UK has opposed a tax on bankers’ bonuses, a possible fund manager bonus cap and an EU financial transaction tax.
Barnier said: “The single market cannot be pick and mix. I have heard some people say financial services should be repatriated. It is clearly the wrong cause to fight for because financial services are an integral part of the single market and the single market is the heart of Europe.
“Of course the single market is not the City’s only trump card but it is an important one. By definition there cannot be two single markets; one for financial services and one for other sectors; one for the City and one for the rest of the EU. This is out of question.
“Repatriating powers of financial services would mean leaving the single market and de facto the EU. I believe the UK would lose out on many of its own interests.”
Open Europe research director Stephen Booth says: “Barnier is being slightly churlish by saying the UK cannot repatriate such powers because not many people are arguing for it.
“It seems like an attempt to call into question any legitimate discussions about how you organise EU financial regulation in future.”