Sacre bleu! Zut alors! The only possible reactions to news that Paris’ bourse has, by one measure, overtaken London’s stock exchange as Europe’s largest. The calculation sent a shockwave through the City’s lunch spots today, just about replacing the fear and dread associated with Thursday’s budget as the first topic of conversation.
Could it be that the worst of the predictions for a post-Brexit Square Mile could come true?
Well, not quite. Much of the brouhaha stems from currency fluctuations – the pound is down more than the euro this year, throwing off the calculations, and much of the difference is down to the success of just one company, the Paris-listed LVMH whose value continues to soar.
London, too, remains the European home of venture capital and private equity, houses around half of the continent’s new billion-dollar companies and maintains a professional services industry that knocks the rest of the continent into a cocked hat. Our competition is New York and Singapore more than Paris.
But just because the shift can be explained away relatively simply does not occasion a bout of complacency. It is absurd that six years after the Brexit vote, we are yet to see meaningful reform to Solvency II regulations that insurers insist would free them up to invest in long-term UK infrastructure projects – a meaningful, obvious post-Brexit dividend. The Hill Review (on listing rules) and the Kalifa review (on fintech) are increasingly gathering dust, too.
It seems the only thing central government can move quickly to do, in fact, is bash business; be it a windfall tax dreamed up under political pressure or convincing itself that hiking corporation tax in a downturn is sensible economics.
Is London really the second financial centre in Europe? Of course not. But it is time for the City to be appreciated, and enabled. The Square Mile has been resilient despite Westminster’ years of chaos. It’s payback time.