Should'a put a ring-fence on it

We shouldn't pursue growth at the expense of stability.

One commentator suggested bankers would not take the rule seriously. Photograph: Getty Images

Brussels, namely European commissioner in charge of regulatory reform of the region’s banks, Michel Barnier, has continued his policy of banking reform by confusion in choosing to ignore the foremost point of the report commissioned by the EU last year.

In an interview with the Financial Times on 29 January, Barnier argued that if and when any recommendations of the 2012 Liikanen report were to be employed they must not “penalise banks when they work for the benefit of the economy and industry.”

Barnier is concerned that if measures put forward in the Liikanen report are put in place and European banks do not have access to the considerable funds deposited in their coffers by retail customers, growth of the economy will suffer as a result.

The Liikanen report borrowed many ideas from the 2011 UK’s Vickers Report. Most notably regarding the strict ring-fencing of banks trading activities. This was expanded on by UK Parliamentary Committee on Banking Standards which advised the “electrification” of that ring fence.

Many have been sceptical whether or not the measures outlined in the report could be effectively implemented, with one commentator suggesting bankers would not take the rule seriously and likened it to young boys pissing on an electric fence to see who got shocked first.

While this may be true it should be noted that even though the rules may be mocked, like an electric fence the deterrent may be enough to prevent too many excursions into the fenced off area. Enough at least to lessen the blow of another 2008-esq crisis.

Growth is good, that cannot be denied. The EU should not forget the lessons of the past: growth shouldn’t be sought at the expense of stability.