OCREUS Group

The EU is set to throw the City of London an 18-month lifeline to continue clearing euro derivatives after Britain’s unfettered access to the bloc ends in January, an EU draft document showed.

When the UK left the EU in January and continued access under transition arrangements which are set to end on Dec. 31, meaning EU banks would not be allowed to use clearing houses such as the London Stock Exchange’s LCH and ICE Clear Europe in 2021.

The European Commission declined to comment on Tuesday.

Although a low margin business, clearing is a critical foundation for global financial markets, ensuring trillions of dollars in swap trades complete safely.

London’s clearing houses help cement the capital’s status as the world’s biggest centre for trading derivatives, adding to its historic attractiveness as a base for global banks.

Brexit has already prompted some to shift hundreds of jobs to EU hubs, and lobby groups have warned that more could leave if euro clearing shifts to the euro zone.

LCH clears the bulk of euro-denominated interest rate swaps that are used by companies across the EU to insure themselves against adverse moves in borrowing costs.

But euro derivatives clearing in London has long been a point of tension between the UK and the EU, where policymakers want euro zone activity under European Central Bank scrutiny

The EU has acknowledged that a sudden cut-off in access could undermine financial stability as users sought to shift large derivatives positions at short notice, giving it little choice but to grant what it has dubbed “time limited” access.

Industry officials expect a formal decision next week.

Access will also depend on the Bank of England cooperating “closely” with EU authorities, and on the bloc’s markets watchdog ESMA having “immediate access in all situations” to all information on risks from British-based clearers.

The Bank of England has warned the EU about “multiple hands on the steering wheel” in a market crisis.

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