The head of Britain’s banking lobby group has described France’s campaign to win business from London as highly political and has claimed that French negotiators are refusing to accept that issues such as legality of contracts pose a serious risk to the financial system after Brexit.
Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, said that France had been “very joined up” in its lobbying since Brexit “to win for Europe, and for France, what it believes to be its legitimate share of the financial centre that has migrated to London over the last 40 years”.
France “does not appear be concerned about the economics, or even about financial stability, but is focused on the politics and about winning long-term advantage in financial services”, he said.
UK Finance represents most of the large banks, markets and payments businesses in the UK. The group has been lobbying for a wide-ranging mutual access deal after Brexit.
Mr Jones’s comments echo what many in the finance industry have been saying privately for months: that France under President Macron is aggressively marketing Paris as a location for large international banks and asset managers in an attempt to win business from London. In contrast, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland and others are perceived as having adopted a more conciliatory approach on the basis that they want a continuing partnership with Britain.
The French stance has provoked concerns about issues including contracts and data. Mr Jones said that France was “adamant that there are no financial stability issues around long-term contractual continuity for the trillions of pounds of cross-border financial contracts that extend beyond Brexit, and neither does it appear willing to address cliff-edge data-sharing, which is critical to any business operating cross-border”.