Paris appeals to London for win-win Brexit solution, as it prepares for tens of thousands of workers to move

Hayley Kirton
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Do the charms of Paris give it an advantage over Frankfurt? (Source: Getty)

An army of French lobbyists and politicians swept into London today in an attempt to lure finance executives to Paris. However, the delegation admitted they cannot steal London's financial crown, and instead want to forge a mutually successful relationship between the two cities post-Brexit.

"We are not here to steal business from London," insisted Jean-Louis Missika, vice-mayor for the City of Paris, speaking at a glitzy diplomatic event in The Shard.

The pitch from across the channel was, to paraphrase, as follows: London will remain the pre-eminent global financial hub, but some banking jobs will need to move post-Brexit – and it's better to move those roles to Paris than anywhere else in the Eurozone.

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"When was the last time you thought of taking your partner for a nice weekend in Frankfurt?" said Valerie Pecresse, president of the Paris region, taking a side-swipe at Germany's financial district.

The French capital has already been on the charm offensive following last June's Brexit vote, extending its generous rules for taxation of expatriates and French nationals returning from stints overseas.

Yesterday, Pecresse reminded her audience of the 28 per cent tax rate for executive expatriates (which applies for eight years), and added that Paris has opened two international schools since the Brexit vote, with plans to open two more in the near future. She said it will also invest billions into its transport network.

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The conference was hosted by France's financial industry lobby Europlace, and attracted senior figures from some top City firms.

Gerard Mestrallet, chairman of Paris for Europlace and chair of electricity company Engie, noted that while he and his colleagues had no intention of trying to "force" companies to move out of London, "Paris offers the best opportunities to financial companies that would consider moving some of their activities to the EU".

Despite the diplomatic tone, research by the French interest group claimed London is unlikely to escape Brexit unscathed and says that particular sub-sectors of the financial industry, including asset management, investment and commercial banking and fintech, stand to come off badly from Brexit. Pecresse estimated some "tens of thousands" of jobs will need to be moved from London because of the Brexit vote.

Chief executive of banking giant HSBC Stuart Gulliver last month indicated 1,000 of its London jobs would be heading to Paris.

"Brexit is a slow earthquake," said Missika, adding: "It will reshape all the economy and the financial landscape in Europe."

Europlace claims it has seen a considerable increase in the number of people approaching it with questions about life in the French capital.

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However, Mark Boleat, policy chairman at the City of London Corporation, is unconcerned about jobs moving to Paris. "Businesses see the City as the leading centre for professional and financial services and a globally important place for commerce," he said.

"As we would expect, cities like Paris are competing for trade and the associated jobs that come with these businesses.

"However I am confident that the depth of talent here, our attractiveness as a place to work and live, and assets like English rule of law, language and our regulatory landscape will mean we remain the number one global financial centre."

Meanwhile, the British Bankers' Association declined to comment further on today's discussions, but chief executive Anthony Browne has previously said: "The banks are actually very keen not to move jobs if they can avoid it, not least because their staff don't generally want to move overseas."