If Britain leaves the EU, then come to us. That’s the message coming this week from Paris, where a group of Parisian politicians and finance experts gathered to announce plans to grab a share of London’s finance business should the United Kingdom vote this month the leave the Union. The U.K.’s referendum on Brexit looms on June 23, and the result looks very close indeed. Some in Paris know this, and they’re standing in the wings waiting to attract any post-Brexit London exiles. As Paris Deputy Mayor Jean-Louis Missika put it: “We are rolling out the red carpet.”
They aren’t really, though—at least, not yet. What happened Wednesday was really Greater Paris’s political and business leaders waving to the international press to remind them of their existence, rather than the announcement of any new policies. And while no one in Paris actually said they want Brexit to happen, the tone of comments was nonetheless somewhat tart.
“Britain can’t blackmail Europe forever without giving an answer at some point or other,” said Patrick Devedjian, president of the Hauts-de-Seine department where Greater Paris’s La Défense business district is located. The CEO of trans-European stock exchange Euronext described London’s domination of European finance as an “offshore anomaly,” while the director of financial services company Societé Générale said, “We need to be completely clear—we are indeed in a position to challenge [London].”