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Last Thursday will be remembered as one of the most extraordinary days in British history when, 43 years after joining the European project, the UK voted to leave.
At Lloyd’s we made no secret of our preference to remain in the EU, and over the months leading up to the referendum we stated clearly the positive economic case for remaining — both for Lloyd’s as well as the wider London insurance market.
While our relationship with Europe and the single market has clearly changed, Lloyd’s and the London insurance market will adapt to the new environment we will be operating in once the UK has officially left the EU.
There are several issues that have to be addressed in the coming months. Most importantly for business is how Brexit will affect access to the single market. This is now the most important question for chief executives throughout the sector.
While the UK government evaluates what its next steps are, Lloyd’s will press ahead by implementing our contingency plan, which is designed to ensure we can continue to trade in our key European markets.
It is important to note that, until the formal negotiations to leave the EU are concluded, Lloyd’s and the London market will retain all current access to EU markets for the next two years. No existing Lloyd’s policies will be affected by this result and business continues as usual through into 2017.
Many people have asked since Friday whether London can expect to maintain its position as the global heart of specialist insurance and reinsurance. I strongly believe it can.
The challenge for Lloyd’s, and the industry as a whole, is to ensure our platform remains attractive and to demonstrate that we are best placed to provide businesses with the risk transfer products they need.
Ensuring we can continue to attract the best talent from across Europe and the globe will be critical to London preserving its status. Cutting off or restricting access to the diverse, multilingual, multi-ethnic talent pool in the EU is unthinkable and will make it that much harder to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving insurance market. The industry will be watching carefully to see what the UK negotiates.
As an industry, we will do all we can to progress negotiations as swiftly as possible. This is in our best interests, of course, but more importantly in the best interests of the wider UK economy. The London insurance market is the largest global hub for commercial and speciality risk — controlling more than £60bn of gross written premium. It is a diverse market made up of more than 350 companies, contributing more than 20 per cent of the City’s GDP and employing 48,000 people.
That is why it is incumbent on all politicians to show leadership and bring negotiations to a swift and satisfactory conclusion. Uncertainty will slow down investment and stifle economic growth. The government must start the withdrawal negotiations now, and with authority. MPs are elected into public office to lead. Now, they must do so.
Inga Beale is chief executive of Lloyd’s