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‘Choose Paris’: France boosts drive to woo Brexit-wary firms

As part of its plot to lure businesses across the Channel after Brexit France has set up a one-stop shop to help smooth the crossing and is trying to spread the message that France is a business friendly country.

'Choose Paris': France boosts drive to woo Brexit-wary firms
Photo: AFP

On the day that Theresa May’s Brexit plans were dealt a blow France stepped up its campaign to woo businesses fleeing Brexit Britain.

The latest move by Paris is a one stop shop to provide firms everything they and their staff need to relocate across the Channel.

Since the shock June 23rd EU referendum in the UK result France has been open about its attempts to lure businesses away from Britain.

The latest initiative hardly had the catchiest title: “Choose Paris Region – Welcome to Greater Paris” but it was clear what France is  trying to do.

It was unveiled by Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Thursday and is essentially the creation of a one stop shop aimed at providing businesses with everything they need if they wish to flee the UK and head to Europe.

It will be located at 11 Rue Cambrai in the 19th arrondissement of the city and will essentially help businesses and staff overcome the administrative hurdles of resettling in France.

(Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, President of Ile -de-France Valérie Pécresse and PM Manuel Valls. AFP)

Whether it’s questions around payroll taxes, human resources, offices or even where to enroll children in school and how to get a visa, six dedicated staff will be assigned to guide firms through the tricky process of moving.

It is designed for finance companies as well as new start-ups.

The government is eager to counter the reputation abroad that red tape and high taxes means France is not a good place for business.

“France is changing,” Valls told a press conference in Paris on Thursday. “I’m convinced we are moving in the right direction.”

The PM repeated a promise made in July to extend France’s special tax regime for foreigners to eight years after their arrival from five.

Ross McInnes a native Australian and naturalized Frenchman who will be the ambassador of the new scheme said companies looking to leave Britain will find Paris is an attractive proposition.

“Anyone who’s worked in France for the last few years knows to go beyond some of the cliches and look at hard facts, hard figures,” he told Reuters.

“This is a business friendly country,” he said, before telling journalists “When was the last time you booked a weekend in Frankfurt?” 

Other incentives already announced by France include a move to lower corporate taxes, cut red tape and allow documents to be in English rather than French.

And the Paris regional authority believes there are rich pickings to be had from Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

It estimates around 30,000 financial-sector positions will be up for grabs when the UK leaves the EU and with 30,000 potential posts to be won from other British industries.

“Brexit is profoundly regrettable,” said Paris regional chief Valerie Pecresse. “But we cannot be passive or naive.”

Jérôme Chartier who is in charge of the economy for the Paris regional authority does not believe the City Of London will disappear but told 20 minutes that “companies that do business in the European market will have to locate themselves within the EU or at least move some of their units.”

But many economists suggest France is still unlikely to be the chief beneficiary with countries like Ireland and Luxembourg, where taxes are lower and the labour market more flexible, far more likely to benefit.

A recent study by the World Bank ranked France below the likes of Georgia, Macedonia and Latvia for ease of doing business.

READ ALSO: France given wake-up call as it bids to lure Brexit business

France given wake up call as it bids for Brexit business

 

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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