Jes Staley
Jes Staley said he expected Barclays to receive a fair sentence from US authorities Reuters

London will remain the financial centre of Europe even after Britain leaves the European Union, according to Barclays chief executive Jes Staley.

Speaking to reporters at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Staley sounded optimistic most of the lender's European banking business would still be done from the British capital, even after the UK leaves the 28-country bloc.

Earlier this week, Theresa May, who spoke at the WEF today (19 January), set out her Brexit plan, indicating Britain will leave the single market but will pursue a "bold and ambitious" Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.

However, the Barclays chief executive explained he did not forecast major operations would be moved away from the City.

"I don't believe that the financial centre of Europe will leave the city of London," he said. "There are all sorts of reasons why I think the UK will continue to be the financial lungs for Europe"

The pressing concern for worldwide banks is to ensure they retain access to the European banking passport system. It allows banks and other financial institutions authorised to operate in an EU country, or a state member of the European Economic Area (EEA), to conduct business across the union.

Dublin, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam have all emerged as possible destinations for London-based banks and Staley admitted Barclays and its peers had attracted close attention from a number of European capitals.

"It's very interesting that one minute no-one wants bankers in their back yard, the next they are inviting you over to a barbecue."

As the world's largest underwriter of European government bonds, many thought Barclays might struggle to carry on that activity outside the single market. However, Staley said changing the lender's legal structure would be enough to appease British and European regulators, while safeguarding the interests of European governments.

On the subject of Barclays' ongoing legal battle with US authorities, Staley he was confident the bank will receive a fair sentence. It is fighting the US government in court after refusing to pay the fine it received from the Department of Justice for its role in the subprime mortgage crisis,

"We will still be facing the same prosecutors but we believe in the US justice system to deliver a fair outcome," he said. "You don't take the US government to court unless you think they are being very, very unreasonable."

Staley is among a number of top executives of the banking industry to have appeared or to be set to appear in Davos. On Wednesday, his HSBC and UBS counterparts confirmed both banks will each relocate approximately 1,000 people away from London, to Paris and to other locations on the continent respectively.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs has dismissed rumours it might halve its London staff, after German newspaper Handelsblatt reported the US lender could cut 50% of its 6,000 workforce.

"No decision has been taken and the numbers mentioned are none we would recognize," company spokeswoman Nicole Mommsen was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.