It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) for bringing the debate, which is very timely. As has been pointed out, the merger has been on the horizon for some time, but Brexit has suddenly crept over the horizon and, I am sure, will fundamentally impact on the decision-making process.
Half of St Albans’s economically active population work in London, with many working in financial services. I believe Brexit presents the opportunity to recalibrate our financial services, but the merger has the potential to take away from our negotiating strategy. It is in the best interests of the EU to give London a good deal in the Brexit negotiations, but not if the stock exchange is relocated to Frankfurt, which could happen as a result of the merger. To not look at this in detail would be foolish.
As has been pointed out, 17 of the largest currencies in the world are cleared in London, including the euro. Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan have hailed the City as
“one of the most attractive places in the world to do business”,
citing its “stable legal systems” and
“deep, liquid capital markets unmatched anywhere else in Europe”.
Doing anything that somehow puts a drag anchor on that liquidity is going to be a problem for the future. The merger should not proceed in such a febrile and shifting period as a result of our Brexit negotiations.
Does the Minister agree that it is in the best interests of the European Union’s internal market to maximise its access to City financial services? I believe it is totemic that the stock exchange that is at the heart of those financial services actually stays in London. I do not agree with the Scottish National party Member, the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman), that stock exchanges emerge hither and thither and it does not really matter where, and that a headquarters in one place is enough. I actually think it is of concern. If any other major business was potentially being taken out of this country, such as a car manufacturing business or any other manufacturing business, there would be significant concern. The fact that this is to do with financial services and the stock exchange does not make it any less of a concern.
We should put a stay on the merger, which could be perverse and jeopardise the positive situation in the City of London. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stone said, decisions must be taken in the UK, by the UK. Taking back control was fundamental to the drive for Brexit; ceding control at this particular stage, if that is at all possible, would be at odds with the drive in this country to keep control within the United Kingdom.