British banks urge levy introduction at international level

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Britain's bankers Monday called for any post-crisis levy on the industry to be introduced at an international level, warning that unilateral action risked damaging the country's financial sector.

The country's banking sector "requires international agreements on the framework in which it operates if its competitiveness is not to be harmed," said Angela Knight, chief executive of the British Bankers' Association.

"Bank levies and pay structures are international issues... There is no international agreement on either bank levies or pay structures."

Her comments came after Britain's finance minister last month unveiled a banking tax which will be introduced from next January, at the same time as France and Germany said they would bring in levies on the industry.

At the speech in central London, Knight added that she was "not defending the status quo" and said the country's bankers were "keen to move forward."

"All banks and all bankers are very aware of the crucial role they play in the economy and the responsibilities that come with this."

She also joked about the negative publicity bankers now faced in the wake of the financial crisis, for which the industry took much of the blame.

"We are the leper colony to some, or carriers of bird flu to others," she said.

"I think we are now though a little more popular than the English football team," she added, referring to the England squad's heavily criticised performance at the World Cup in South Africa.

Britain, France and Germany are among countries that have been pushing all members of the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations to enact such levies.

Others, including Canada, China and India that did not need to prop up banks with taxpayer money during the financial crisis, are against such a levy.

G20 leaders failed to reach agreement on the issue at a June summit in Canada, deciding instead to push most discussions of regulation to their next meeting in November in South Korea.

© 2010 AFP

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