France Makes Play To Scoop Up London Businesses Left Estranged By Brexit

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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France is creating a team of politicians and business leaders to lobby for London businesses looking for a new home after the June 23 Brexit decision.

The business executive charged with leading this team is Ross McInnes. McInnes, a graduate of Oxford University, began his career in finance in London with Kleinwort Benson bank and is the acting chairman of a French engine company. His familiarity with both the London and French business environments make him an ideal choice to head the lobbying effort for France.

Sectors incurring the greatest impact from Brexit, like banking and finance, are likely to be the main targets of this newly created French coalition. Their efforts may not be out of step with reality. HSBC announced just three days after the Brexit decision that it was considering moving 1,000 jobs from its London headquarters to Paris.

Other sectors the lobbying team are likely to focus on will be the mining, industrial, energy and service industry.

The French government is making strides to become a more attractive business environment for British firms. French regulators announced they were simplifying the registration process for businesses in France, and even adding an English-speaking representative to handle the filing of new applications.

There is one problem with French employees that could really make some British businesses think twice about moving operations: the ability and ease of terminating an employee. It is incredibly difficult for an employer to terminate a worker in France, as at-will dismissal does not exist there. An employer can only terminate an employee for specific reasons, and the procedure for carrying out termination is rather onerous in both time and effort.

France’s government and business community are aware of the labor disadvantages and proposals are under discussion to institute a special labor code covering the financial sector in order to attract British financial firms. The creation of such a code does not seem likely, since the nation “cannot have a specific status for jobs in the financial sector,” French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said.

Other noteworthy contributors to the French lobbying team are Christian Noyer, the former governor of the French central bank, and Gerald Mestrallet, chairman of Paris-based utility group Engie.

Leaders from the British banking community are skeptical that the French government will provide any incentive packages to attract their business before the 2017 French presidential election, the FT reports.

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