HomeBussinessI fear it’s already too late for Britain

I fear it’s already too late for Britain


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Britain has never recovered from the destruction of the financial crisis, with the economy still more than 20pc smaller than it would have been had its pre-crisis growth trajectory been maintained.

The difference with the US, which is where the crisis began, could hardly be greater. The US quickly clawed back all the economic losses of the crisis, and has done the same again with the pandemic.

While Europe faffed around with measures to cap banker bonuses and generally hem the financiers in, the US rebooted the system and moved quickly on.

We went even further than the Europeans here in Britain; we imposed special levies on the banks, we dug deep into their lending practices, and we quite unnecessarily forced them, at great expense, to ring fence their retail operations.

Today they can barely move for enforcement measures, “know your client” box-ticking and “unexplained wealth orders”. 

The real power in the City has shifted wholesale away from wealth creation to compliance.

Regulators are so terrified of mishaps that they are afraid of their own shadow. Their default position is simply to say no to almost everything. I exaggerate, obviously, but only a little.

One fund manager I’ve been talking to has had enough, and will shortly be shifting the bulk of his operations to the Gulf.

“The Financial Conduct Authority only wants the larger players, because it’s easier and cheaper to keep an eye on them,” he complains. “They’d rather close us down than allow us to compete”.

No kind of carve-out for finance was sought during the Brexit trade negotiations; the City can look after itself, was the attitude taken.

This might have been true. There is no reason the City shouldn’t thrive outside the European Union. But it will wither and die if denied access to alternative pools of international capital as compensation for loss of its European markets.

As things stand, these are heading for Dubai, Abu Dhabi, New York and the Far East, not to London.

So too is Sameer Lilani, who has closed his three, once-thriving Amrapali high-end jewellery and precious stones retail outlets, and is relocating with his family to Dubai.

The Government’s decision to end VAT-free shopping for overseas clients has killed his industry, with the business shifting wholesale to the Continent and the Gulf.

“I’ve never seen so many empty boutiques on Bond Street, where only the big luxury brands now maintain a presence,” says Lilani.

London is fast becoming a place for temporary import under bond (TIB) viewings only, with the transaction, and therefore the economic benefit, taking place overseas.

The three examples I cite here of business flight are just the tip of the iceberg. The Government has of late taken some small, tentative steps in the right direction, including lifting the restrictions on banker bonuses.

But I fear it’s already too late. Once the ball starts rolling, it’s difficult to stop.

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