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ESMA maps out relocation rules for UK-based firms, seeks new powers post Brexit

The European Securities and Markets Authority has set out general principles aimed at fostering consistency in authorization, supervision and enforcement concerning the relocation of entities, activities and functions from the U.K., which is in the process of leaving the EU.

The principles include no automatic recognition of existing authorizations if a business relocates and no outsourcing or delegation to third countries except under strict conditions. National regulators are also urged to verify the objective reasons for relocation, to ensure that requirements are met and to effectively supervise and enforce union laws. The ESMA also warned against companies that may try to establish "letterbox entities" in the EU while in fact keeping most of their activities in the U.K.

Steven Maijoor, head of the EU securities watchdog, said firms must be subjected to the same standards of authorization and supervision across the 27 member states "in order to avoid competition on regulatory and supervisory practices."

"The U.K. plays a prominent role in EU financial markets and the relocation of entities, activities and functions to the EU27 creates a unique situation requiring a common effort, at EU level, to safeguard investor protection, the orderly functioning of financial markets and financial stability," Maijoor said.

The regulator also plans to set up a forum to allow national regulators to report on and discuss cases of relocating U.K. market participants.

Separately, the ESMA has sought new powers over credit rating agencies, trade repositories, central counterparties and benchmarks after Brexit, with Maijoor saying it will be "important to find a new balance to foster the single market, reduce barriers and avoid regulatory and supervisory arbitrage among jurisdictions." Clearing houses are currently supervised by national regulators.

Maijoor made the comments in a response to a European Commission consultation on whether changes are needed to financial supervision in the EU.

The regulator also wants to have a bigger role in endorsing new global accounting standards and to have the authority to temporarily suspend certain financial regulations through a mechanism similar to "non-action letters" in non-EU jurisdictions.