UK maintains participation in SEPA

Sending money to friends and family in Spain, paying your mortgage on a second home in France, settling a balance for a holiday villa in Italy. If you?ve ever done any of these things, it's likely that you?ve made a SEPA payment. The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), set up in 2002, is a pan-European payments initiative created to allow consumers and businesses to use one payment account to send and receive money anywhere across SEPA. This is comprised of 36 countries and territories, including the current 28 member states of the EU.

All major UK Payment Service Providers (PSPs), including banks and non-banks, use SEPA to make payments to and from Europe in euros. The SEPA schemes are governed by strict rules that allow participants sending money to know exactly when the funds will be received; additionally, SEPA is significantly cheaper and more reliable than any other method of sending funds cross-border.

UK membership of SEPA has always been automatically derived from our EU membership. But with a possible ?no-deal? exit approaching and with no mechanism for automatic continued participation, UK Finance made the decision to apply for continued membership in the event of a ?no-deal Brexit. This was possible to do as the European Payments Council (EPC), which manages the SEPA schemes, has set a Participation Criteria that allows for non-EEA participation. This participation is subject to strict rules, such as the applicant demonstrating a 'strong economic and legal relationship with the EU?, along with stringent market and operational criteria, and regulatory requirements. UK Finance's application had to demonstrate that the UK met all these requirements, including a country legal opinion to demonstrate that UK onshoring of EU laws met the standards required.

After a long and thorough process of deliberation through all of the EPC's governance levels, we welcomed the announcement last week that the UK's historic participation in SEPA is to continue. This is much appreciated clarity, not only for those in the UK who use SEPA to send money abroad, but also for those across Europe who make payments to the UK. If SEPA membership had not been retained consumers, businesses and corporates on both sides of the Channel would have faced serious difficulties making their every day payments; potentially missing billing deadlines, mortgage payments, or other crucial transactions.

The EPC board's vote supporting the UK's continued participation in SEPA is an important milestone. UK Finance now looks forward to the future of UK and European payments to continue to support fast, innovative and efficient payment systems across the continent, further improving the payment experience for customers and businesses alike.