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Exchange chief says Brexit has made investing in the UK harder

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Brexit has made it hard to invest in the UK, according to the head of the company behind the New York Stock Exchange — a one-time backer of the UK’s split from the EU.

Jeffrey Sprecher, founder and chief executive of Intercontinental Exchange, said the UK had lost value as a trading centre since leaving the single market, and uncertainty around some post-Brexit regulations had made it difficult to invest in British businesses.

“They still seem to be getting their arms around ‘what does a post-Brexit UK look like from a regulatory standpoint’,” he said on Tuesday. “So it’s hard to make investment decisions for us in either London or continental Europe.”

Sprecher is the latest senior international executive to say that the UK has lost its appeal to investors since voting to leave the EU in 2016. One of the world’s biggest infrastructure investors said in October that Brexit was contributing to the UK’s lack of attractive investment opportunities.

He added that Brexit had “complicated” things for the UK, which had historically been a global trading centre. “There was this international move to seeing London as an access point to Europe,” Sprecher said, adding that he now saw the UK as a “foreign country”, and that investments in the US were easier to make.

Sprecher’s comments mark a sharp contrast to his stance in the immediate aftermath of the UK’s decision to split from the EU.

In 2017, he called on Britain to “have a bit of swagger” and argued that it could become a low-tax jurisdiction while avoiding heavy-handed regulation from Brussels.

The UK has played a central role in the development of ICE, the $78bn group which bought the London-based International Petroleum Exchange in its early days, and later added Liffe, the derivatives exchange. The Atlanta-based company has grown from its trading roots into a vast data-centric business and a large player in the US mortgage market in recent years.

Sprecher was speaking at the Futures Industry Association’s annual conference in Florida as part of a discussion among exchange group bosses on what effects geopolitical uncertainties would have on their businesses.

“We’re thinking more about the long-term relationship between regulators and countries, in a way we hadn’t had to do,” he said.

Nasdaq chief executive Adena Friedman, told the same event that regulatory complexity was increasing around the world, but noted that the appetite for cross-border investing remained strong.

“There’s still desire for investors to be able to spread their capital into those countries that they think are emerging or changing or offering new opportunities. So money flows continue to be global, even if politics are becoming more local,” she added.

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