Minister Michel Sapin said Paris must assert its position as a financial powerhouse so it can be in a position to profit from London’s expected losses when Britain’s departure from the EU is finalized.
“Paris really needs to strengthen its position. It has the capacity,” said the finance minister.
While the City of London and Canary Wharf are the banking centres of London, Paris's own finance HQ is based out in the district of La Defense to the west of Paris (see photo below).
Spread out over 560 hectares, it includes 18 skyscrapers and sees almost 200,000 workers commute in every day.
In other words it is in a good position to take over London's mantel as Europe's financial centre.
Sapin suggested that France could force David Cameron to eat even more humble pie by making him regret his infamous inflammatory statement about London “rolling out the red carpet” for Parisian bankers fleeing high taxes.
“I found it highly disagreeable when the Prime Minister said he would roll out the red carpet for those who wanted to flee France for the UK fearing high taxes,” said Sapin.
“I am more 'fair play' than him,” he said. “But I said the other day that the red carpet remains in place and it works it both directions,” said Sapin.
And Sapin has no doubt that that the red carpet could function in the opposite direction intended by Cameron once Britain leaves.
“What is the strength of London’s position? It is that [for a business] being in London means you are in Europe,” said Sapin.
“But in the future there would be no point being in London. [Businesses] would need to have their feet planted in the European Union. That could be in Paris, Amsterdam of Frankfurt.
Sapin believes the “financial passports” that give London’s banks access to the European Union will be taken away after Brexit as a “necessary and obligatory consequence”.
It’s not the first time French ministers have suggested Paris would try and woo London’s bankers in the event of Brexit.
France’s former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg said back in 2014 that if the UK voted to leave the EU “France will roll out the red carpet to British investors who will flee their country. They will all come to France because companies need Europe.”