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Brexit’s £61t derivatives spat needs fix now, banks say

[LONDON] The world's biggest banks pressed policy makers to pass an urgent Brexit fix to ensure European traders' access to London derivatives clearinghouses and avoid rupturing £61 trillion (S$106.7 trillion) in contracts.

The industry's top lobbying associations told the European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, that it must act fast or risk turmoil when the stopgap solution elapses in March. The call echoes pressure on the EU from the Bank of England, which has said firms might need to move business out of London as early as next month unless there is clarity.

"We respectfully but urgently request the Commission to provide this confirmation well in advance of the end of Dec 2019," the FIA, which represents banks, brokers and other firms in the derivatives markets, said in a letter. The International Swaps and Derivatives Association, the Association for Financial Markets in Europe and 11 other industry bodies also added their signatures.

The groups' members include the biggest derivatives traders in the world including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group and Deutsche Bank. The European Commission didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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With the state of Brexit still uncertain and the UK in the throes of an election, the financial industry is pleading for continuity in several areas of the markets that don't yet have a Brexit roadmap. The London Stock Exchange Group's clearinghouse for interest-rate swaps is the world's largest host of such trades, making it a crucial hub for hedging risks.

Clearinghouses stand between the two sides of a derivative wager and hold collateral, known as margin, from both in case one defaults. At issue is a so-called equivalence decision that the EU adopted late last year, which allows EU firms to use derivatives clearinghouses in the UK on a temporary basis even in the event of a no-deal Brexit. A sudden loss of access to this critical pillar of the market could pose financial stability risks, officials in Brussels said at the time.

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