UK’s Brown calls for pension barriers to fall

UK – The UK’s finance minister has called for the removal of European cross-border barriers to the diversification of investments in pension funds.

“While America has achieved a high degree of diversification across state borders, investment in Europe remains fragmented on national lines,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown said in a speech at the Centre for European Reform in London, “and there is a need to remove barriers to diversification of investments across borders, for example in pension and mutual funds.”

“So we will support the European Financial Services Action Plan as it improves mutual recognition of financial services providers in insurance, banking and capital markets,” he added. But he warned that the UK would challenge European Union regulation if it felt it hindered competition.

“And where EU regulation such as the proposed new Investment Services Directive threatens to weaken rather than strengthen competition we will fight to change it,” Brown said. The directive, seen as a cornerstone of the FSAP, seeks to promote a “single passport” for investment firms, investor protection and a regulatory framework for investor transactions.

Brown said labour, product and capital market flexibilities are “even more essential” in a single currency area.

The road to full employment started with monetary and fiscal stability. “And this road to full employment in Britain depends not just on achieving economic reform in Britain but in Europe too.

He signalled the UK’s opposition to tax harmonisation. “The way forward is mutual recognition of national practises not harmonised regulations; and tax competition not tax harmonisation.”

Brown said that there were more than 900,000 workers aged over 50 in work than there were in 1997. But he said “more flexible recruitment patterns” could make it easier for older workers to move between jobs.

Brown called for an end to “the old protectionism” and the embracing of open markets.

“Greater openness to global trade and investment creates new opportunities for European producers and consumers, and strengthens the incentives for reform.

“A more flexible and dynamic Europe would, in turn, play a leading role in breaking down barriers to trade and investment in the rest of the world - a virtuous circle of reform and openness, leading to a stronger and more resilient economy from which the EU, and the global economy, would benefit.”

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