French trying to 'exploit' Brexit to attract banks, says ex-minister

In a memo leaked to the Mail On Sunday, a former British foreign minister has accused France of actively trying to take advantage of the disruption Brexit has caused to the City of London.

France has been accused by a former British foreign minister of actively seeking to "degrade" the UK's financial sector by using Brexit
France has been accused by a former British foreign minister of actively seeking to "degrade" the UK's financial sector by using Brexit to lure companies from the City of London.

France eye Brexit opportunities as Dublin and Frankfurt become favourites

Jeremy Browne, a Liberal Democrat who served in the 2010–15 coalition government and who now acts as the City of London's envoy on Brexit, said in a leaked memo that the French were openly attempting to exploit Brexit.But other reports suggest the French might not be nearly as successful at attracting financial companies to relocate compared to other European cities. Last week, a survey from EY showed that Dublin and Frankfurt were emerging as favourite venues and Ken Owens, Brexit partner at PwC, told the Guardian that, in discussions with clients eyeing relocation, "as a location, (Paris) is not coming up".In a hard-hitting memo leaked to the Mail On Sunday, Mr Browne said after talks in Paris earlier this month with senior politicians, financial services chiefs and diplomats, he felt French ambitions had become "more giddy and more assertive" since the election of President Emmanuel Macron."They are crystal clear about their underlying objective: the weakening of Britain, the ongoing degradation of the City of London," Mr Browne wrote.
Related stories:
"The meeting with the French Central Bank was the worst I have had anywhere in the EU. They are in favour of the hardest Brexit. They want disruption. They actively seek disaggregation of financial services provision."Every country, not unreasonably, is alive to the opportunities that Brexit provides, but the French go further, making a virtue of rejecting a partnership model with Britain and seemingly happy to see outcomes detrimental to the City of London, even if Paris is not the beneficiary."The clear messages emanating from Paris are not just the musings of a rogue senior official in the French government or central bank. France could not be clearer about their intentions. They see Britain and the City of London as adversaries, not partners."It is entirely in line with the tone set by French representatives currently crashing conspicuously around London, making heroic relocation promises and pouring cold water on the propositions of alternative EU financial centres."

Dublin seen as future by banks

However, Mr Owens said PwC had between 20 and 30 clients planning to move to Dublin, even though "a lot of them will start quite small and move ten to 15 senior managers and slowly expand”.He said that clients found the Irish capital attractive because “you don’t have to mess around with tax rulings”, allowing straightforward Brexit calculations. “The corporate rate is 12.5 per cent and that’s what it stays at; that’s what you pay. Ireland is very transparent, unlike some other countries. The rate is competitive and that’s helping,” Mr Owens saidAnother big issue for firms doing the tour of Europe is employment law in Germany and bonus caps and pay restrictions in the Netherlands, he added. As for Paris: “As a location? It’s not coming up.”Kieran Donoghue, head of international financial services at Ireland’s Industrial Development Authority, said he believed that more than a dozen banks would ultimately make at least a partial move to Dublin from London, relocating or hiring anything from ten to 500 staff apiece.“It is not that London is going to decamp en masse to Dublin or anywhere else – the industry is going to move to a more decentralised structure with hubs in several locations,” said Mr Donoghue.
Read David Sapsted's article on Establishing Right to Remain – which discusses the uncertainty over immigration which the UK faces following Brexit – in the Summer 2017 issue of Relocate Magazine.
For related news and features, visit our Brexit section.

Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory

Click to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  

Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre

Related Articles