Majority of City would vote for UK to stay in EU

The vast majority of finance workers would vote for the UK to remain part of the European Union even though more than 40 per cent believe that Brussels is actively hostile towards their industry, according to a new survey that lays bare the City of London’s ambiguous relationship with Europe.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they would either “definitely” or “probably” vote to stay in the EU, according to a survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation (CSFI). Only 12 per cent of those surveyed said they would “definitely” vote for a so-called “Brexit” if given the opportunity to do so, reports The Telegraph.

However, in a finding that highlights the mixed feeling many who work in the City have about EU membership, 42 per cent of those surveyed said they thought the European Commission is “hostile” towards City interests. A further 42 per cent felt Brussels is “neutral” and only 16 per cent believe Brussels is supportive of the UK financial industry.

Andrew Hilton, director of the CSFI, said: “The City is scared of the implications of an out vote and about its vulnerability if the UK chooses to go it alone.

“That said, support for the EU is based on resignation rather than enthusiasm. Yes, the City wants to remain in the EU, but it doesn’t like Brussels, it fears European regulation and it is worried about the political drift of the EU.”

Lucy Thomas, campaign director at Business for New Europe, said she thought the perception that Brussels is hostile to the City is born out of several, high-profile European Court of Justice (ECJ) cases – especially one related to the EU’s cap on bank bonuses – which the British government has fought and lost. This has created a perception that the UK, and the City in particular, struggles to make itself heard in Europe.

However, she added that there have also been a number of successes, most notably in March when the ECJ ruled against the European Central Bank’s desire to limit the number of euro clearing houses outside the eurozone – hailed by many as a significant victory for the City.

Ms Thomas added: “We also now have the first British commissioner in charge of financial services in Lord Hill. He understands the UK and is pushing for capital markets union, which will undoubtedly benefit the City.”

More than 80pc of those surveyed by CSFI – over 400 professionals working in the UK financial services sector, including bankers, investment managers and economists – expect the UK to remain part of the EU in the foreseeable future. However, many respondents expressed concern about over-regulation, the UK’s declining competitiveness and British influence diminishing within the union. Nearly two-thirds of those who took part in the survey said Britain’s MEPs don’t fight hard enough in support of the City
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Business for Britain, said: “Too often advocates of the EU conveniently ignore the damage done to the city’s position as the financial capital of the world by excessive and poorly designed EU regulation.

“Support for membership must be contingent on securing a significant reduction in Brussels interference and greater freedom to trade across the globe, particularly in emerging markets. With increased integration in the eurozone, it’s vital the UK’s position outside of the euro is reinforced otherwise attitude towards the EU will only harden further.”

The issue of Europe has already emerged as a key battleground as the UK’s main political parties attempt to woo British businesses. The Conservative Party has pledged to hold a referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union in 2017 if it is returned to power following next month’s general election.

The Labour Party, meanwhile, took out a full-page advertisement in the Financial Times on the first day of the election campaign saying it would “put the interests of Britain and British business first rather than risk an EU exit”. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has said an EU referendum is “a clear and present danger” to jobs and business.

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