France Woos U.K. Finance as Industry Reels From Brexit Paper

(Bloomberg) -- France is on a charm offensive. While the U.K.’s financial-services industry reels from the Prime Minister’s latest Brexit proposal, politicians across the Channel are stepping up their campaign to show firms they have other options.

On a two-day visit to the U.K. this week, French Deputy Finance Minister Delphine Geny-Stephann met with banks, asset managers, private equity and fintech firms in an effort to promote France’s new, more friendly approach to business. While the trip was long-planned, her timing couldn’t be better as Britain’s financial firms were left up in arms over the U.K.’s post-Brexit plans.

Prime Minister Theresa May spelled out in detail the U.K.’s Brexit vision for its future partnership with the European Union on Thursday. Central to the blueprint was a proposal for a new U.K.-EU “free trade area” that would protect goods from trade barriers. On financial services, however, May abandoned the idea of mutual recognition of each other’s regulations, instead opting for “equivalence” -- looser rules that would cost U.K.-based banks unfettered access to EU markets.

I’ve met “with companies, mainly from the financial-services sector here in London, to explain the status of the reform package that has been launched by the French government,” Geny-Stephann said at a media lunch on Friday. “Paris can attract all specialities. What we want is value-added jobs, value-added activities to be located in Paris and to have the scope of what a strong financial sector can offer."

More Friendly

Since French President Emmanuel Macron was elected last year, France has overhauled its tax system and made changes to labor laws in an effort to create a more business-friendly environment. The country has reduced corporate tax and capped redundancy costs.

The minister said meetings had focused on France’s changing economic model, growth potential, and what the country is doing to lure financial firms. She declined to name the companies she spoke with and also met with broadcasters.

About 3,500 financial services jobs are currently slated to move from the U.K. to France, according to Geny-Stephann. HSBC Holdings Plc, Bank of America Corp. and Morgan Stanley are among those banks relocating roles to the French capital.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.