France ‘wants hard Brexit so as to attract City firms’

La Défense is the biggest financial and business centre for the capital

A top City of London official charged with EU relations says France is in favour of “the hardest Brexit” so as to “degrade” the City and attract firms to Paris instead.

In a memo leaked by British tabloid The Mail on Sunday, Jeremy Browne, who has been holding talks with French banking chiefs, politicians and diplomats, says the French actively oppose a “smooth transition” for the financial sector, because it “hinders them in achieving their goals”.

He said: “…seasoned observers would be quick to say you have to understand the French: they are upset about Brexit, they are very steely negotiators… these are just the opening shots in a long negotiating process etc.

“This may all be so, but we should nevertheless have our eyes open that France sees Britain and the City of London as adversaries, not partners.”

France has become “giddy and assertive” since Emmanuel Macron’s election, Mr Browne claims, adding that French bankers are currently “crashing around London making heroic relocation promises” to firms who might be interested in a move to Paris due to the uncertainties surrounding financial firms’ ability to carry out EU/euro related transactions on the same terms after Brexit.

“We can say it’s all our own fault for voting to leave the EU, but that does not change anything,” the memo says, adding that some other EU members, such as Luxembourg, are also concerned about France “throwing their weight around so aggressively” and are on the contrary happy for the City of London to remain as the Europe’s biggest financial hub.

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So far, however, the fruits of this alleged “aggressive” recruitment are limited – the main announcement has been HSBC saying it will move 1,000 employees to France. Others have been looking to other centres such as Frankfurt, Dublin and Luxembourg.

Many commenters on the website of Le Figaro made comments such as “so what, it’s them who decided to leave – deal with it”, and “we didn’t force them to Brexit!”, while others have pointed out how five years ago then UK prime minister David Cameron declared he would “roll out the red carpet” to any French bankers who wanted to relocate due to high Socialist taxes under François Hollande.

One poster wrote: “They wanted to roll out the red carpet to us at one stage and then – bang, Brexit… well we and Europe have got carpets too.” 

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