French financial regulators have a simple message for UK businesses considering a move to the continent after Britain’s vote to leave the EU: ‘Come to Paris, we speak English.’
In a blatant attempt to lure companies across the Channel, the ACPR financial watchdog and AMF securities regulator announced on Wednesday that they are simplifying the often laborious process of registering financial companies “in the context of the Brexit vote”.
From now, officials will accept legal documents written in English from EU-registered groups seeking to move to France — saving the trouble and cost of drafting new paperwork. They will even provide an English-speaking official to handle new applications.
In addition, UK financial companies will be able to secure “pre-authorisation” for a move to France in just two weeks — to help them to start finding office space and hiring staff without delay.
“[We are] getting ready to welcome British-based institutions that wish to locate their business in France,” the regulators said in a statement, pointing to the “consequences” for UK firms that choose to remain based solely in the UK.
Many believe that London-based financial groups will be compelled to move staff or even headquarters to the eurozone, if the UK loses its regulatory “passporting” rights in a Brexit settlement.
French regulators stressed the “freedom to provide services” across the EU that will be afforded to UK groups that move to Paris.
Their relaxation of the rules on English language applications is the latest in a series of moves aimed at attracting UK financial groups following the Brexit vote — a strategy in which Paris has been far more aggressive than rivals such as Frankfurt or Dublin.
Despite a historically ambivalent relationship with high finance, the French government appears to have seized energetically on the idea of attracting finance jobs from London, as domestic economic growth remains stubbornly slow and unemployment above 10 per cent.
“Paris’s financial centre is what makes France attractive,” said Manuel Valls, the French prime minister over the summer. Valérie Pécresse, a former budget minister and president of the Paris region, said her enemy was “not finance, but unemployment”.
Following the Brexit vote, France quickly announced some of the EU’s most generous tax breaks for expatriates. Foreign executives now enjoy an income tax break of up to 50 per cent and the right to exclude foreign assets from the wealth tax for eight years.
“We will be rolling out the red carpet [to bankers],” said Jean-Louis Missika, a deputy mayor of Paris this year. Gérard Mestrallet, head of the Paris Europlace lobby group, said this was “the moment” for Paris as a financial centre.
London’s standing as Europe’s dominant financial centre has long been a source of irritation in Paris. Roughly a third of all euro-denominated trading currently happens in the City, even though the UK is outside the eurozone.