Emmanuel Macron’s political envoy in London has told City A.M. France has no desire to create a “crisis” in the Square Mile by luring away businesses post-Brexit.
Alexandre Holroyd, one of the founders of Macron’s En Marche in London, said that the French president’s focus is on making Paris competitive, rather than stealing business from London.
“We are convinced that being competitive is not about making your neighbour less competitive. If companies leave London they could go to hundreds of destinations,” said Holroyd, a former regulatory specialist at City firm FTI Consulting.
He adds that Macron hopes to make Paris a viable home for French workers and businesses.
“We want to introduce labour reform, cut taxes for companies and invest massively in certain industries. What we want to make sure is that they have a choice and that includes opportunities in France,” he said.
“It’s not about challenging the English model, it’s about making our country attractive again. I don’t think anybody has an advantage in seeing the City have a massive crisis.”
However, visiting London in February, Macron made a pitch for the capital’s workers and institutions to move to Paris. After being granted the unusual honour of meeting the Prime Minister as a presidential candidate, Macron stood on the steps of Downing Street and declared his desire to lure “banks, talents, researchers, academics and so on” across the English Channel.
Holroyd quit FTI last September for a role with En Marche, Macron’s newly-formed political party, and is fighting to join the French parliament as Macron’s candidate for the so-called third constituency for French residents overseas.
If elected, Holroyd will represent ex-pat French citizens in the UK, Ireland and eight other Northern European countries.
After two years helping to lead FTI’s regulatory affairs work in London, Holroyd was lured into politics by Macron’s promise of a challenge to the incumbents of the French system.
“France has leaders who are very intelligent, but few who have the courage to defy their own party plans or go outside the box,” Holroyd said.
“The bipartisan system wasn’t working. Both the major parties were acting as massive blocks against each other and nothing really being done.”
But, with the arrival of Macron, he added: “The leader was there, and ideas were there and with the political situation we could see an opening where people were more and more detached from the traditional right and left.”
While voters in France will go to the polls for the first round of parliamentary elections on 11 June, in the UK polling will take place on 4 June, before all voters participate in a second round on 18 June.
“It is a favourable environment,” Holroyd believes. “The biggest challenge is to get people out to vote. I’m taking nothing for granted because the difference is going to be a couple of hundred votes.” In the 2012 parliamentary elections, the turnout for the ex-pat constituency topped out at roughly 20 per cent.
And the broader challenge for Macron’s En Marche to secure a parliamentary majority is substantial. “If we don’t get a majority in parliament we won't be able to do anything,” Holroyd said, adding that voters must rally to the En Marche flag if they want to give Macron a chance to pursue the agenda on which he campaigned.
“If they don’t back that up with a parliamentary majority they will have cancelled out their own vote,” he said.
Macron’s officials hope that agenda will include new labour reforms which Holroyd said will be “urgently” put through parliament after the election.
“There will be more power given to the unions on a local and branch level, and less on a national level, because this is where the problems come up,” Holroyd said, blaming a small number of “radicals”.
“They have a crucial role to play in our system, but they just have to be more representative.”
And in the meantime, Holroyd is hoping to get some clarity on Brexit, and in particular the treatment of his potential constituents in the UK.
“There are not a lot of signals out there that the French community here is going to be very welcome afterwards,” he said, claiming that mortgage lenders and employers are more cautious with European nationals because of uncertainty on their long-term status.
“It’s up to the UK to clarify how it sees its future post-Brexit, and I don’t think for the moment it’s very clear.
“Clearly the UK is going to lose some certain benefits from being part of the EU.”