France wants to use Brexit to harm the City of London, lobby group warns ministers

William Turvill
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Paris lobby group Europlace is aiming to attract 20,000 financial services jobs to the city as part of Brexit (Source: Getty)

France is setting out to weaken the UK economy and harm the City of London in the Brexit process, a lobby group has warned ministers.

Former Home Office minister Jeremy Browne, the City of London Corporation’s Brexit envoy, made the allegation in a memo to the Treasury this month.

“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 a beneficiary,” he said, in a letter leaked to the Mail on Sunday.

“They are crystal clear about their underlying objective: the weakening of Britain, the on-going degradation of the City of London.”

He added: “We can find their imperial grandiosity slightly comical, or alarming, and the element of European parochialism unworldly, but that does not change anything either. We should do the French the courtesy of believing them.”

Browne alleged that France’s central bank is in favour of “the hardest Brexit. They want disruption.”

He also told ministers that the UK should “have our eyes open that France sees Britain and the City of London as adversaries, not partners”.

France, he said, is “more giddy and more assertive” since the election of President Emmanuel Macron, a former banker who is seen as business-friendly.

The letter has emerged shortly after Paris Europlace, a lobby group aiming to strengthen the French capital’s financial services sector, hosted the bosses of JP Morgan and HSBC at a conference last week.

HSBC is already preparing to move up to 1,000 jobs from the UK to France as part of Brexit, and JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon indicated he would be willing to shift staff into Paris.

Earlier this month, the French government set out a raft of new, business-friendly policies – including lowering taxes and shaking up labour laws – aimed at attracting more firms to Paris.

The City of London Corporation declined to comment.

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