Britain presses Germany for Brexit financial services deal

LONDON — Two senior British officials urged Germany on Wednesday to support a post-Brexit deal that protects the important financial services sector and doesn't hamper trade with unnecessary red tape.

Britain's Brexit minister and treasury chief are trying to woo Europe's biggest economy and gain leverage in ongoing talks about the EU's future relationship with London after the U.K.'s departure from the bloc in March 2019.

Britain last month secured an agreement with the other 27 countries to move on to the next phase of exit talks involving future relations, including trade, and transition arrangements.

Britain wants the U.K.'s vast financial services sector to be part of the talks on future trade ties, but chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has ruled that out.

David Davis, Britain's Brexit minister, and treasury chief Philip Hammond wrote in an op-ed for Wednesday's edition of German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that "the economic partnership should cover the length and breadth of our economies including the service industries — and financial services."

"As two of Europe's biggest economies, it makes no sense to either Germany or Britain to put in place unnecessary barriers to trade in goods and services that would only damage businesses and economic growth on both sides of the Channel," they wrote.

Hammond told a conference in Berlin late Wednesday that London was seeking signals from Europe that it is willing to "work together in a spirit of pragmatic cooperation."

He urged EU leaders to drop any talk of "punishing" Britain for leaving the bloc and to give London a clearer idea of what they want.

"They say 'it takes two to tango,'" Hammond said. "Both sides need to be clear about what they want from a future relationship."

Davis is meeting CEOs in Munich Thursday.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said no meeting was planned with the British ministers and made clear that Berlin has no intention of breaking ranks with other EU countries.

"Germany has always emphasized, ever since the — in our view, regrettable — decision by the British to initiate Brexit, that the unity of the EU 27 is of paramount importance," he told reporters in Berlin. It is "gratifying" that unity has been preserved so far and everyone stands behind Barnier, he added.

"It will continue to be our focus to maintain the commonality of the EU 27," Seibert said.

The visits come as German leaders are focused squarely on domestic politics, trying to form a new government more than three months after the country's election. Chancellor Angela Merkel and other political leaders are locked in talks on a possible coalition that are due to last until Thursday night.

The British ministers underlined London's argument that "we should not restrict ourselves to models and deals that already exist."

They said that work on ensuring that financial authorities worldwide can cooperate in setting rules and supervising large companies "shouldn't end because the U.K. is leaving the EU."

"On the contrary, we must re-double our collective effort to ensure that we do not put that hard-earned financial stability at risk, by getting a deal that supports collaboration within the European banking sector, rather than forcing it to fragment," the ministers argued.

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