France is actively seeking to exploit Brexit to disrupt and degrade Britain’s lucrative financial sector, a senior City representative has warned. Former foreign office minister Jeremy Browne, who acts as the City of London’s envoy on Brexit, said the French see the British as “adversaries” in the forthcoming withdrawal negotiations.
In a memorandum leaked to The Mail On Sunday, he said his talks in Paris have been “the worst I have had anywhere in the EU”, with the French open about their desire to see the UK weakened.
Following a visit to the French capital earlier this month, Mr. Browne said the mood had been made “more giddy and more assertive” by the election of President Emmanuel Macron.
His comments will reinforce fears among critics of Brexit that other EU countries will exploit the UK’s withdrawal to take away lucrative business.
Mr. Browne, who met banking chiefs, senior politicians and diplomats, wrote: “They are crystal clear about their underlying objective: the weakening of Britain, the ongoing degradation of the City of London.”
“The meeting with the French Central Bank was the worst I have had anywhere in the EU. They are in favor of the hardest Brexit. They want disruption. They actively seek disaggregation of financial services provision.”
“Every country, not unreasonably, is alive to the opportunities that Brexit provides, but the French go further, making a virtue of rejecting a partnership model with Britain and seemingly happy to see outcomes detrimental to the City of London even if Paris is not the beneficiary.”
Mr. Browne, who was a Liberal Democrat minister in the coalition under David Cameron and Nick Clegg, said hostility to the UK is not confined to a few officials but represents a “whole-of -France collective endeavor”.
“The clear messages emanating from Paris are not just the musings of a rogue senior official in the French government or central bank. France could not be clearer about their intentions. They see Britain and the City of London as adversaries, not partners,” he wrote.
“What we are witnessing is a whole-of-France collective endeavor, made both more giddy and more assertive by the election of Macron.”
“It is entirely in line with the tone set by French representatives currently crashing conspicuously around London, making heroic relocation promises and pouring cold water on the propositions of alternative EU financial centers.”
Browne said the French assertiveness is even beginning to alarm other EU member states who fear they could find themselves isolated if they seek to maintain good relations with the City and the UK.