The former Government minister who was drafted in as the City’s top EU envoy is to step down this summer amid continued uncertainty about a post-Brexit deal for the financial services industry.
Sky News has learnt that Jeremy Browne, who served at the Foreign Office during the 2010-2015 coalition administration, will leave the City of London Corporation at the end of August.
Mr Browne is quitting at the conclusion of his original three-year contract despite recent speculation among financial services executives that his term would be extended until after the UK’s departure.
His exit will come at a perilous time for the Brexit negotiations, with Theresa May in Brussels for an EU Council meeting on Thursday that is not expected to yield any meaningful progress.
The City, like other crucial sectors of the British economy, has become increasingly fearful about the possibility of a ‘no deal’ Brexit because of its implications for companies’ ability to trade and move executives freely across borders.
This week, UK financial regulators became embroiled in a public row with European counterparts about the preparedness of British firms for the post-Brexit period.
Mr Browne was hired by the Corporation on a six-figure salary to act as a senior London-based liaison between the City and Brussels.
As its special representative to the EU, he has written regular memos detailing accounts of his discussions with key officials in EU capitals, many of which have struck a pessimistic tone about the progress of negotiations on both sides of the table.
His departure will come as the City of London Corporation progresses the appointment of a new senior figure to be based in Brussels, a role that was originally intended to work alongside Mr Browne.
Sources said Mr Browne was now unlikely to be directly replaced, with the new Brussels-based executive expected to be drawn from the ranks of government affairs officials at a major City firm.
The Corporation has had an office in Brussels since 2004, but the proposed recruitment of a senior figure illustrates the determination of City officials to ensure that London’s financial services sector is adequately represented during a crucial period.
Major investment banks and asset managers have already begun to move small numbers of people to new EU-based trading hubs and representative offices as they prepare for a range of potential outcomes in the Brexit discussions.
Influential figures in the European Commission and member states including France and Germany want to take big chunks of lucrative markets such as euroclearing away from London.
Meanwhile, many bosses in the British banking, insurance and asset management sectors believe that the progress of the Brexit negotiations to date risks propelling the UK towards a no-deal departure from the EU.
The PM and other Cabinet ministers have held periodic talks with senior City executives in an attempt to reassure them, but many believe that time is running out if they are to avoid triggering irreversible contingency plans.
A document prepared for the Corporation and seen by Sky News last year revealed its plans to “put the City in the best possible position to have an ongoing constructive relationship with the EU27”.
“As the UK leaves the EU, the representational model for the City and UK financial and professional services in Brussels will need to change,” the Corporation document said.
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“It is critical that the City delivers a single, coherent message in Brussels as far as possible.”
Mr Browne and a Corporation spokeswoman declined to comment on Thursday.