Brexit battle: Paris sends raiding party to London to seduce bankers

Paris once again made a move to profit from all the uncertainty around Brexit by sending a crack team to London to woo bank and finance chiefs back across the Channel.

Brexit battle: Paris sends raiding party to London to seduce bankers
Photo: AFP

The French government and city leaders in Paris have made no secret of their desire to take advantage of the insecurity of some finance firms in London with Brexit looming large.

Since the British public voted for EU divorce last June, France has taken several steps to entice companies and banks to up sticks and move across the Channel. They've cut red tape and even published documents in English.

In January there was perhaps proof that the charm offensive was working when HSBC said it would likely switch 1,000 jobs to Paris from London given Britain’s departure from the EU.

On Monday the French capital, one of many European cities fighting for post-Brexit business, stepped up its offensive by sending dignitaries to London to meet with bankers, insurance firms and asset managers to persuade them to move their activities to Paris.

“The battle is tightening between Paris and Frankfurt,” said a spokesperson for Valerie Pécresse, the head of the Ile-de-France region, who led Monday’s raiding party to London.

Alongside Pécresse will be Gérard Mestrallet, who is president of Paris Europlace, the body responsible for promoting the French financial sector.

Mestrellet will present a comparative study demonstrating the attractiveness of Paris.

He will be accompanied by Australian Ross McInness, who was appointed ambassador to the new one-stop shop called Choose Paris Region.

It was set up in November to provide firms everything they and their staff needed to relocate across the Channel.

“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 at the time.

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

However despite the push to make Paris seem more attractive to international firms, there are some, including the World Bank, who believe the country has a long way to go before it can really rival other global cities for business.

In October the World Bank gave France a reality check in its bid to attract Brexit business.

In its global ranking Doing Business 2017 France was placed down in 29th position for the “ease of doing business”, one lower than the previous year's position.

While 29 out of 190 doesn't sound bad, when you consider the likes of Georgia, Macedonia and Latvia are ahead of France, it doesn't look so rosy.

No disrespect to those countries, but it's clearly not where France would want to be as it is desperate to see its economy grow and to woo business from Britain.

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France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Visits to the Channel islands from France have halved since Brexit, and French local authorities say they may be forced to cut the regular ferry service, asking for the passport requirement to be waived for French visitors.

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Travel to and from the Channel islands – which are British crown dependancies – has reduced significantly since Brexit, when passports became a requirement for those travelling in and out of the islands and their ports.

Now the president of the local authorities in the Manche département of France has asked that passport requirements be lifted, with hopes of increasing travel to and from the islands.

Jean Morin told Ouest France that there has been a “considerable reduction in the number of passengers on routes between the Channel ports and the islands” and as a result the ferry service between France and the islands was seriously in deficit.

“On these lines, we will never make money, but we cannot be in deficit”, explained the Morin. 

He added that if a solution is not found by the deadline of May 1st, 2023, then local authorities will stop funding the shipping company DNO, which runs the Manche Îles Express ferry service.

“If the passport requirement is not lifted by then, we will have no choice but not to renew the service contract for 2024-2025”, Morin told Ouest France.

Only around half of French people have a passport, since the ID card issued to all adults is sufficient to travel within the EU. 

READ MORE: Ask the Expert: How Brexit has changed the rules on pensions, investments and bank accounts for Brits in France

DNO re-launched operations in April and since then, the company, and by extension the département – who plays a large role in funding it via a public service delegation – has been losing significant funds.

According to Franceinfo, the number of passengers has been cut in half since passport requirements were introduced. Franceinfo estimates that for one ticket for one passenger costing €30, the département spends €200.

According to Morin, the ideal solution would be to require a simple ID for tourists seeking to take just day-long or weekend-long stays on the islands – which reportedly represents at least 90 percent of the boats’ usual passengers.

“The Jersey government is working hard on the issue and is waiting for an agreement from London and the European Union. There is the possibility that things could move quickly”, Morin told Franceinfo on Tuesday.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, boats going to and from the French mainland carried at least 110,000 people per year. In 2022, only 40,000 passengers made the journey, Olivier Normand, the sales manager of Manche Îles Express, told Actu France.

Normand had expected the decline, however. He told Actu France that the company had taken a survey, which found that almost half (between 40 and 50 percent) of their clientele did not have a passport.