Does Basel III encourage banking fragmentation in Europe?

I had not considered this point before:

Basel III and related regulation generally work against building scale. Larger capital charges based on size, leverage and complexity, and a bias toward ringfenced subsidiaries, may make for a safer global banking system, but applied across euro area countries, and in the absence of a strong banking union, they constitute a recipe for less efficiency and greater fragmentation.

It is an excellent piece by Gene Frieda (FT gated), here is more, on the consequences of an imperfect banking union:

Banks will continue to hold primarily national assets and their size will be constrained by their resident deposit bases. Any reconvergence of funding costs comes not as a function of greater confidence, but from the forced reimposition of national financing constraints.

Loan pricing, on the other hand, will remain highly differentiated amid elevated periphery default risk, as highly indebted economies will be unable to grow their way out of a debt trap. A complete banking union would remove these national financing constraints and promote a greater flow of credit to viable entities.

This will lead to strong deflationary pressures and indeed you will note that private loan growth in the eurozone remains negative, a sign the crisis is not over.  And then there is this:

Finally, given the lack of common fiscal backstops for the banking sector, the ECB’s independence is compromised. Indeed, without a credible backstop, supervisory responsibilities cannot be separated, giving rise to conflicts between monetary policy and financial stability objectives.

I would add that a full and perfect banking union probably is politically impossible, not just by a small amount but by a long mile.  Berlin/Brussels cannot guarantee a country’s banks without also guaranteeing the sovereign as well, either directly or indirectly (in the limiting case, imagine that sovereign nationalizing a bank to get the guarantee explicitly).  I just don’t see that in the cards.


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