Business

Brexit envoy warns: France using Brexit to weaken City of London

LONDON France is seeking to use Brexit to weaken the City of London, the British finance sector's EU point man warned in a leaked report published yesterday.

"They are crystal clear about their underlying objective: the weakening of Britain, the ongoing degradation of the City of London," Mr Jeremy Browne, a former government minister who is now the City's Brexit envoy, said in a memo.

The City of London refers to London's central business district and historic centre.

The leaked report, published by the Mail on Sunday tabloid, was written as a summary to ministers of a trip made by Mr Browne to France earlier this month.

He said: "The meeting with the French central bank was the worst I have had anywhere in the EU.

"They are in favour of the hardest Brexit. They want disruption."

Mr Browne acknowledged there may be political benefits to France of playing "bad cop" in the negotiations on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, which began last month and are due to resume in Brussels today.

But "we should nevertheless have our eyes open that France sees Britain and the City of London as adversaries, not partners".

This approach was not confined to a few officials but was a "whole-of-France collective endeavour, made both more giddy and more assertive by the election of (Emmanuel) Macron" as president in May, according to Mr Browne.

He added that "every country, not unreasonably, is alive to the opportunities that Brexit provides, but the French go further".

He said they are "seemingly happy to see outcomes detrimental to the City of London even if Paris is not the beneficiary".

Paris is competing with Dublin, Frankfurt and other centres for an expected shift in finance jobs out of London as a result of Brexit.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe earlier this month laid out a raft of measures aimed at boosting Paris' attractiveness, including eliminating the top income tax bracket.- AFP

BREXITFranceunited kingdom