Brexit: HSBC set to move jobs out of UK, says chairman

THE UK could see a massive migration of jobs exceeding “more than just a few tens of thousands” because of the economic impact on the financial services sector of the UK leaving the European Union.

HSBC chairman Douglas Flint this week said the bank would shift thousands of staff and offices out of London if prime minister Theresa May failed to secure passporting rights for UK banks when Britain left the EU.

Flint, a chartered accountant, told a Treasury Select Committee meeting on the UK’s future economic relationship with the EU on Tuesday that he would take pre-emptive action to move certain services out of London to France, Ireland, Holland or any other place within Europe where it operates.

The chairman said HSBC was already in a “better position” than other banks because it already had a full service bank in France. Flint said it would probably move 1,000 jobs to Paris.

Flint and Xavier Rolet, CEO of the London Stock Exchange, told committee chairman Andrew Tyrie that there should be some sort of pre-agreement before May begins Brexit talks at the end of March.

Flint said that “it would be helpful to get an idea of the policy objectives of the negotiation”.

Rolet agreed saying that it was important to have an idea of the “direction of travel” in order to accommodate financial systems and operations, allay fears and prepare for the impact of the loss of more than tens of thousands of jobs.

Flint told the committee that the bank could take a “wait and see” approach because it already had operations in the EU and that multinationals were also flexible but smaller companies were sitting on cash to see what the outcome would be in terms of the single market and the customs union, “because that will impact how they configure their businesses”.

“So it is more problematic for the smaller businesses. I am not sure that they can do too much pre-emptively, except that we are spending a huge amount of our time talking to our customers about the possible range of scenarios and ensuring that they have thought about the financial aspects of planning that we can help them with in relation to creating more debt capacity availability for them, so that if their supply chains become longer, their debts take longer to collect or things just get a bit more expensive and clunkier than they have been up until the point we leave Europe, they have the financial wherewithal to manage through until we get into the new arrangements,” Flint said.

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