Valerie Pecresse is aiming to take British jobs to France, by fair means or foul.
The head of the Paris region had a charm offensive ready for UK companies the day after the Brexit referendum, regardless of the result.
With the surprise decision to leave the European Union raising doubts about whether British companies will be able to retain access to European markets, Pecresse, 49, is going into overdrive.
“If I need to go and grab jobs with my teeth, then I’ll do it,” she said in an interview on the sidelines of a conference in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, last month.
Britain’s decision to leave the European Union handed Pecresse an opportunity to help the almost 700,000 unemployed among the Paris region’s 12 million inhabitants. It’s also a chance to demonstrate her political chops after leading her party to a bruising victory in France’s biggest economic region for the first time in 17 years in December.
The regional authority forked out several million euros on an advertising campaign unleashed on 24 June, the day after the vote, promoting her region as an alternative to London.
“Move on, join Paris and its opportunities,” the ad went. If the referendum had gone the other way, Pecresse had a completely different message ready.
To back up that campaign, she’s set up a hotline for UK companies seeking information about potentially moving to Paris and her team, which is also reaching out to potential targets, has been in touch with about 4,000 London-based businesses.
“Some are big multinationals and some others are small,” she said, declining to reveal names. “We’re rolling out the blue-white-red carpet.”
Potential restrictions on access to the single market have been a major source of concern for British firms. Yesterday, Angela Merkel’s foreign policy guru Juergen Hardt said Britain would not be able to benefit from the trading bloc without paying its way.
“If someone wants to benefit from the European Union single-market structures, he also has to contribute to the cost of that operation,” Hardt said in an interview in Berlin. “In Britain, before the referendum, nobody talked about that fact.”
Financial firms, which have been crucial to UK economic growth are concerned that they will lose the so-called “passporting” rights which allow them to trade in all 28 member states.
JPMorgan chief executive, Jamie Dimon said he would move up to 4,000 employees to the continent after Brexit.
Other American banking giants Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group and Citigroup have also said they cold shift people abroad, while HSBC and Deutsche Bank have hinted at relocating jobs to France and Germany.
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