Delegates at a recent conference in Vienna have heard that the UK must still be included in cross-border pension discussions in spite of the UK’s recent shock decision to leave the European Union.

Othmar Karas, an Austrian member of the European Parliament, said: “For the UK, any alternative to EU membership would have to include freedom of movement and labour – cross-border pensions is therefore still an important topic.

“We need European pension funds, not just an EU pension fund directive, because we need Europe-wide service providers in this segment, where a joint domestic market is essential.”

After the conference, Paul Jankowitsch, founding chair of the RESAVER group, told IPE the pan-European pension plan would also include non-EU members.

“We have UK members in the consortium that, as far as we know, will continue to prepare for making use of RESAVER.”

He added his belief that the European research area would “most likely remain larger than the EU”.

RESAVER is an IORP set to be established on 14 July in Brussels, and the “preparations for receiving the first contributions are well underway”, Jankowitsch said.

Bruno Gabellieri, president of the European paritarian organisation (AEIP), said he would like to use RESAVER as a role model.

“There are some European industry sectors where the idea of RESAVER could be applied,” he said. 

Gabellieri also speculated that the dynamics of negotiations on cross-border solutions within the EU might change for the better after Brexit.

“Maybe these topics will now be easier to negotiate,” he said.

However, not everyone at the conference, organised by the European Parliament and the European Commission, saw pan-European pensions in a positive light.

Michael Reiner, from the University of Vienna and formerly of the Austrian supervisory authority FMA, warned about the “communitisation” of pension plans and argued that pan-European schemes made “no sense” and were “legally impossible”. 

“According to Article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the European legislator is neither allowed to regulate remuneration nor the basic set-up of the national pension systems,” he said. 

He said he also feared a “monopoly if there is one single European player” and the creation of financial service providers “too big to fail”.

But Francesco Briganti, chief executive and founder of the Employee Benefits and Welfare Institute, said: “A single European pension plan is already legally possible – the political will is a different topic.”

He said the project could be started as an ‘enhanced cooperation’ within the EU by at least nine countries, citing “Western European countries with similar approaches to pensions regarding employer contributions, and the involvement of both employer and employee representatives”.  

He said it was “already assumed” that the UK would have not been involved in such a project because of its “historical reluctance” to EU policies in the “social field”.