Fears Grow as MiFID II Delays Continue

Terry Flanagan

The MiFID II proposals, which promise sweeping reforms to Europe’s capital markets, continue to be held up in Brussels as market participants are fearful that the controversial directive will now be ushered in through the back door.

“Time is becoming an issue for MiFID,” said Michel Barnier, the European Union’s financial services commissioner, in a recent speech in Frankfurt.

“The European parliament adopted its position already last October. I am counting on the Council of Ministers to agree on a general approach soon, so that discussions with the parliament can commence.”

Most market participants in Europe want to see general agreement on the directive before Ireland’s six-month presidency of the Council of Ministers ends in June. The next two incumbents to hold the revolving presidency are lowly Lithuania and debt-ridden Greece.

Many feel an Irish presidency will be more market friendly and possess more political clout than either Lithuania or Greece in dealing with the European parliament—which seems hell-bent on making the financial services sector pay for the financial crisis through the MiFID II reforms—in the eventual trialogue discussions that will set in stone MiFID II.

Once the Council agrees its MiFID II text then the process will move to trialogue—a series of meetings between the three main bodies in Brussels which are made up of the European parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission—before the final law is thrashed out.

Markets Media has been told that even under a best-case scenario, trialogue discussions for MiFID II may not now begin until Lithuania’s presidency starts later this year.

Anne Plested, who heads up the regulation change program in Europe for trading technology firm Fidessa, described the process as the “ever-lengthening MiFID II timeline” in a recent blog.

The parliament has antagonized many in the industry with proposed rules in MiFID II including the introduction of a minimum resting time for orders to remain valid on an exchange for at least 500 milliseconds.

High-frequency traders, who are likely to be properly regulated for the first time under MiFID II, are fearful of what could happen if the trialogue discussions do not start before June. Mark Spanbroek, secretary-general of Brussels-based group FIA Epta, which represents firms that trade on their own capital on European exchange-traded markets, last month challenged Ireland to “finish the trialogue discussion”. He told Markets Media that more delays in the process could prove harmful to the HFT industry.

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