UK damages its interests with stance on Europe, says German banker

A senior manager at a German bank in London has publicly criticised the “bellicose threats” that Britain’s Conservative party has made to Continental Europe, ending in prime minister David Cameron’s veto of a common EU rescue agreement for the eurozone on Friday.

Cameron’s snubbed his negotiating EU counterparts on Friday by refusing to sign an agreement most of his EU counterparts had agreed to.

This rejection resulted in a very public snub of Cameron himself – widely broadcast on British television over the weekend – by France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, who refused to shake his hand.

Tom Brown, a senior credit executive working in London for Norddeutsche Landesbank, suggested Cameron’s rejection of a reworked pan-EU treaty could ultimately lead European banks that have operations in London to leave the capital’s ‘Square Mile’ financial district.

Cameron rejected the agreement, Conservatives said, to avoid more regulation and tax from Brussels on banks in Britain.

However, writing in the Financial Times on Saturday Brown said: “The City of London owes its attraction to foreign banks to British ownership of the European Union.

“Without the ability to transact business and, vitally, move staff anywhere in the EU, in a single market with freedom of movement of capital and people, the City would be finished.

“Many foreign banks would shut up shop, and move to Dublin, Amsterdam or Frankfurt. The business model of the City only works if it works for the European Union.”

“The talk of ‘safeguarding’ specifically British interests in the City misses the point. The City can only maintain its ascendancy in financial services if the UK is a fully committed member of the EU.

“Nothing could be more damaging to foreign investment in the UK, and to the City in particular, than the idea that the UK would leave the EU. This is what a large section of Mr Cameron’s party now want, and which he in opposition played up to.”

Brown then said the characterisation of the UK having a “semi-hostile” approach to the EU and not the “the reality of [being] a powerful, equal partner” to the bloc, was “damaging to perceptions around the world”.

Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, the other party in Britain’s ruling coalition, spoke publicly on the weekend about his anger at “a missed negotiating opportunity” for David Cameron to keep good contact with the EU.

Germany’s popular press was less diplomatic. The Bild newspaper called Cameron ‘Mister No’ and said: “Bye bye England, Europe will continue without the British!”

There was similar sentiment, though less vehement, voiced by Scandinavia’s and France’s press.

Martin Schulz, leader of Germany’s Social Democrats Party in the European Parliament, said it was now possible Great Britain might leave the EU.

“I have doubts about whether Great Britain will remain in the EU for the long term.”

He told Bild am Sonntag: “Cameron has scored a massive own-goal. Never before has Great Britain been so isolated in the EU. The EU can go on without Great Britain if need be, but Great Britain would have more trouble without the EU.”

Cameron is expected to address his fellow British parliamentarians in the Westminster Houses of Parliament about his decision on Monday.

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