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The end is not nigh for City of London post-Brexit, Trade Secretary Fox says

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The end is not nigh for City of London post-Brexit, Trade Secretary Fox says

U.K. Trade Secretary Liam Fox is confident the country's financial services sector will remain a global leader after Britain leaves the EU.

Concerns about London's relevance on the global stage have swirled since the Brexit referendum in 2016, with many global banks making contingency plans to move business elsewhere in Europe.

However, the demise of the City of London has been predicted before, and it has nevertheless thrived over the years, Fox told senior industry representatives and other market makers at the City Week 2019 conference in London on May 20.

SNL Image

U.K. Trade Secretary Liam Fox is seen leaving 10 Downing Street in London on April 2, 2019

Source: Associated Press

"We are in the middle of a fundamental change of direction and the unwillingness of parliament to lift the uncertainty exacerbates the situation," Fox said. "But I am certain that the City of London will do what it always does, which is to emerge fitter, stronger and more dynamic than ever."

Since the referendum the U.K. has retained and even strengthened its position as a leading global financial center, Fox said, citing a new Deloitte survey showing new London-based commercial property construction at a three-year high.

The biannual survey published May 20 showed new office space under construction in London reached 13.2 million square feet as of end-March 2019, up 12% compared to the previous survey and the highest level seen since the referendum.

This is a "far cry from doom and gloom" and reinforces the City's global preeminence as an investment destination, Fox said. He also pointed to recent OECD figures showing the total value of foreign investment in the U.K. has increased and is higher than that of Germany, Spain and Poland put together.

The financial services sector sits at the heart of that, he said. It provides opportunities not only in London but also across the U.K., and the government will stand behind it, he said.

"Of course, there is no room for complacency and we must accept the fact that there will be significant challenges as well as opportunities ahead," the trade secretary said.

The government believes that the best approach is to leave the EU with a deal and will continue to work for that.

Speaking at the same conference earlier in the day, U.K. Economy Secretary John Glen said the British government is looking for expansion opportunities to ensure growth after Brexit. He mentioned an expansion of cooperation with India and other emerging economies.