Big finance can't wait any longer for Brexit plan

'Hard' Brexit talk pushes pound to 31-year low
'Hard' Brexit talk pushes pound to 31-year low

British finance firms have tired of waiting for the government to reveal its Brexit strategy.

Lloyds of London on Thursday became the first big U.K. financial institution to go public with its plans for life after Brexit. The global insurance market said it was acting now to protect £2.9 billion ($3.6 billion) in business that has been put at risk by Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

Lloyds is preparing to establish a subsidiary within the EU to ensure that it can continue doing business there. One possible consequence of Brexit is that Britain will drop out of Europe's unified trading bloc.

Stewart Todd, a spokesman for the company, said it was too early to say whether jobs will move from London to Europe. But he said the process of creating a subsidiary will cost "tens of millions of pounds."

Lloyds plans were first reported by the Financial Times.

Major banks and other financial institutions have warned that they could be forced to move thousands of staff and open new offices as a result of Brexit, but few have been as explicit as Lloyds.

Jack Neill-Hall, a spokesman for financial industry lobby TheCityUK, said that while all well run businesses will have contingency plans, he was not aware of any companies "which have spoken publicly about this in the way Lloyds have."

Many financial firms based in London currently have EU "passports" that allow them to operate across Europe. They're worried that they will lose the ability to trade across borders if the Britain leaves the EU.

Brexit scorecard: The cost and complexity of leaving the EU

The British government has done little to ease their fears. The government has said it wants to achieve "the best possible access" to Europe's market of 500 million, but officials have not said how that will be achieved.

Many businesses have concluded that there's little chance that trade will continue on the same terms.

"If there is a complete turnaround from the government and the U.K. stays in the single market, we can just continue as we are now," Todd said. "We are making this plan so it's in place when -- or if -- the U.K. leaves the single market."

Related: Investors see danger in U.K.'s plan for Brexit

The House of Lords, the second chamber of parliament, warned this week of a dire impact to London's financial industry from Brexit. It said the government must act quickly to reduce uncertainty.

If the government does not provide clarity, the House of Lords warned that firms could relocate or restructure preemptively in order to protect their interests -- exactly what Lloyds is preparing to do.

Investing

CNNMoney Sponsors