It sounded a bit far-fetched – that the UK wants to set higher standards for its banks than the EU would allow. But these are Cameron’s words in his statement on Monday [from Hansard here]:
To those who say that we were trying to go soft on the banks, nothing could be further from the truth. We have said that we are going to respond positively to the tough measures set out in the Vickers report. There are issues about whether this can be done under current European regulations, so one of the things we wanted was to make sure we could go further than European rules on regulating the banks.
First of all this relates to regular EU law (Directives rather that Regulations actually, but definitely not in the Treaty). So whatever Cameron had or had not negotiated last week will not have impacted this.
Secondly, according to Michel Barnier, the Commissioner responsible for this dossier, there is no problem of incompatibility between the draft [PDF] and the Vickers conclusions, demanding 10% core tier one capital, higher than the 7% proposed in Barnier’s draft.
Third, this is a codecision dossier and – even if the original proposal was a problem – almost the whole of the legislative procedure lies ahead. Timetable information is here, and Sharon Bowles in the EP is on the case. It seems there is some genuine confusion over the compatibility of Vickers with existing legislation (see Mervyn King’s comments here (ignore the silly story title)), but the new proposals amend the legislation currently on the statute books. So this is the chance to make sure everything is compatible.
Fourthly, the Vickers conclusions are due to be implemented in 2018, and the EU proposals according to a similar timeframe, and the timetable for the agreement of the legislation in Brussels is the next 6 months. It is not as if this all has pressing urgency.
I’m just rather surprised that – at an event earlier this morning – I heard a rather extraordinary spat between Charles Grant and a Commission official on this point, with Grant defending the Cameron line. On the basis of my efforts to look at this, documented here, I cannot see how the Cameron line is right.