Leader: Business as usual post Brexit? Not likely

Natalie Holt, journalist with Money Marketing Photo by Michael Walter/Troika

Call me a cynic, but I find it hard to believe some of the arguments that are surfacing that nothing much will change in the event of a Brexit. Undoubtedly, whatever happens come 23 June, the world will keep on turning.

We can even set aside the inevitable short-term fallout as markets reassess sterling and the value (or not) the UK offers as an investment opportunity.

But it is worth remembering a member state has never tried to leave the EU. This has never been done before. As star manager Richard Buxton tells Money Marketing this week, “there  is no blueprint” here.

The first thing that will need to be decided in the wake of a “leave” vote is to what degree we want to be separated from the EU. The “just a little bit separated” Norway model does not seem to address the fundamentals – if anything, we get all the cost of Europe but with less influence than we have now.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is full-blown divorce. Where the UK ends up on that range will be the starting point to determine the impact of a Brexit on UK financial services.

Unfortunately for advisers and their clients, a leave vote spells years of a deadly combination of complexity and uncertainty. The framework governing pensions and investments in both the UK and Europe would need to be redefined.

By spelling out some of the implications of a standalone UK, Money Marketing is not attempting to persuade readers to vote one way or the other. Nor should we.

But it is worth examining how advice may change in the event of a Brexit, and how regulation and financial services generally may need to adapt as a result.

Of course, if the UK votes to leave, this is by no means the end of the story. Will other member states look on enviously, and start to clamour for their own referendum?

And what of the Scots? Scottish Widows has suggested a vote against EU membership could trigger another Scottish referendum, given the country’s pro-EU stance and the fact it voted to stay part of a UK that was in turn part of a bigger European whole. There is also talk of another vote on the EU, where there is a narrow vote or low turnout for example. And all this before the actual vote itself.

No rest for the wicked, as they say.

Natalie Holt is editor of Money Marketing. Follow her on Twitter: @Natalie_Holt_MM