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Tougher EU regime for foreign clearing houses takes shape pre-Brexit

LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - France's top market regulator Robert Ophele has been appointed acting chair of the European Union's tougher system for deciding if foreign clearing houses can operate in the bloc, a sensitive issue for Britain after Brexit.

Ophele is chair of France's markets watchdog AMF and will also from January be acting chair of the Paris-based European Securities and Markets Authority's (ESMA) new central counterparty supervisory committee.

He will oversee the bedding down of the new committee pending the appointment of a full-time chair, the ESMA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The London Stock Exchange's LCH unit clears the bulk of euro-denominated interest rate swaps, and Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau has said he wants to see the activity based in Paris, where LCH has a subsidiary.

Dominance in clearing is a core element that helps make London a preeminent global financial centre.

The new ESMA committee will play a central role in applying new, more stringent EU rules for domestic and foreign clearing houses used by banks and other customers in the bloc.

After Brexit, LCH in London is set to ask ESMA for recognition as a clearing house for continued use by EU customers to avoid losing euro clearing business to rivals like Deutsche Boerse.

The ESMA committee is expected to impose tough conditions and U.S. regulators fear that U.S. clearing houses like ICE or CME could face similar terms. (Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)