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Why a Brexit would be a 'windfall' for France

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11:20 CEST+02:00
Far from worrying about the predicted ‘apocalypse’ of the UK walking out on Europe, France should embrace the idea of a Brexit as a unique opportunity, French essayist Edouard Tétreau argues.

In an opinion article published prior to Thursday's referendum essayist Edouard Tétreau argues how Brexit couls suit France and Europe.

 

It would be “a tragedy, an irreversible dislocation of Europe,” according to the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Would Brexit really be the apocalypse that they are telling us it would be?

I say the opposite: the Brexit is a tremendous opportunity.

Firstly for Europe, the exit of the UK will put an end to the movement to forcibly expand the European Union. Britain has always supported this policy as the most effective way of diluting the Franco-German powerbase that drives the continent's dynamics.

The expansion has taken its toll: poor integration in the EU and even in the Eurozone of countries that were not ready to join, from Greece who cheated their public finances to benefit from the financial profligacy that comes with being in the euro, to the Hungary of Viktor Orban, or Bulgaria - some of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The real “dislocation” of Europe is this: the deliberate will of the British to expand institutions that function well with ten or so members, but can no longer operate in the chaos that is European meetings and summits with 28 members.

The incapacity of the EU to confront the recent series of crises, whether it’s the Greek financial crisis or more important ones like the euro, terrorism and migrants, simply highlights this fact.

So a Brexit will initiate a movement to refocus Europe around the countries who truly want to progress together.

A Brexit would also be great news for France and its foreign diplomacy. It won’t change the solid and remarkable military commitments between France and the UK laid out in the Lancaster House Treaties.

On the other hand it will allow France, along with Germany, to lead a slightly less aggressive European Union foreign diplomacy than has been the case in recent years.

This foreign policy included the Iraq war, backed by Tony Blair and the expansion of the European Union and NATO towards the East, up to Ukraine, which has only acted to reawaken Russian paranoia.

With the UK out of the union, Europe will redevelop a foreign policy that is more suited to its interests and values and built around three possible axes.

Firstly, peaceful relations with Russia. Secondly, foreign policy towards the Middle East that is relaunched and reinvented after the historic agreement with Iran. Finally to make Africa and the countries around the Mediterranean a strategic priority.

And last but not least, a Brexit would represent a historic windfall for the city of Paris.

In a few months the City of London will lose the essence of its raison d’être – to be the financial hub of Europe.

But when it's transformed into an offshore (literally) fiscal paradise the City of London would force away all the banks and asset management funds who want to continue to operate in the European market, without the barriers caused by regulations and taxes that would be applied to London-based institutions once they are outside the Union.

Thousands of managers, lawyers, financiers, and also the heads of the European subsidiaries of multi-national companies would have to leave the UK to remain within the EU to continue their work.

Paris is easily the city, along with Berlin, that is best placed to welcome their talents.

Not only is it the “tech” capital of Europe, but Paris has for a long time been home to an exceptional talent pool in the industries of finance and consulting, as the heads of many of the world’s leading companies will testify.

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To paraphrase the words of the Mayor of London Boris Johnson in 2012, when he offered to roll out the red carpet for those fleeing France, this time it would be “Welcome to Paris My Friends”.

But before rolling out the red carpet from London towards Paris we need to be able to create the same spirit of freedom, pragmatism, and optimism in Paris that has always existed in London.

We will not attract all the talent from the city with promises of stripping citizens of nationality, uncontrollable public deficit and fiscal instability, or the national preference for subsidized unemployment rather than subsidized employment.

So we would have to establish a different political leadership in France than the one that exists today.

Édouard Tétreau is a French essayist, columnist, and political and economic consultant. He is the Founder and Managing Partner of Mediafin.

This opinion article originally appeared in Le Figaro newspaper. CLICK HERE to view the original version.

 

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