To lure companies after Brexit, France will hold its nose and allow some official business to be done in English

Bienvenue, er, welcome.
Bienvenue, er, welcome.
Image: Reuters/Regis Duvignau
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With the UK gripped by the uncertainty of its impending exit of the EU, countries elsewhere in Europe are trying to lure businesses away from Britain. France has been among the most aggressive, promising London’s anxious financial firms the unfettered access to EU markets they currently enjoy, as well as pledging a smooth transition and easy registration process.

And get this: it can all be done in English.

Two French financial regulators, the ACPR and the AMF, announced that they are “simplifying and speeding up” licensing procedures (pdf) for UK-based companies wishing to relocate across the Channel. The outreach is well timed, considering that a survey earlier this week found that three-quarters of CEOs in Britain are considering moving operations out of the UK because of Brexit.

The French authorities will now accept application paperwork and legal documents written in English, including ”forms that have been submitted to the supervisory authorities in the home country and papers concerning a branch whose business will be taken over by the subsidiary firm.” Businesses that make the move will also be able to call on a coach, of sorts, to help them through the process, according to the statement:

An English-speaking contact point will be appointed to guide applicant firms through the procedure starting with the pre-authorization period and will provide all necessary information to ensure the smooth processing of the application.

The pre-authorization process means financial firms, which are heavily regulated, can whiz through the initial stages of setting up in France in just two weeks, according to the AMF, which regulates France’s markets. This will give companies making the move a “head start” in finding office space and recruiting staff, the agency says. (The head start, presumably, refers to the wave of arrivals that France hopes will come as Brexit negotiations drag on.)

The openness to English is noteworthy for a country where officialdom has historically been protective of its native language. The Académie Française, a centuries-old, 40-strong council of academics—or “immortals,” as they’re known—advises the government on terminology, and has long claimed the language is under threat from Anglicisms and other improper modern habits.

But up-and-coming French politicians like digital affairs minister Axelle Lemaire and former economy minister Emmanuel Macron (a presidential hopeful) are often seen speaking in English—a no-no for many in the old guard—at international forums. The two recently helped launch a network of hubs for French tech startups abroad, with London’s the most prominent. Better promotion of innovative French businesses internationally will, the group says, entice “entrepreneurs, top talent, and investors from around the world to come to France.”

The prospects for Paris chipping away at London’s status as Europe’s business hub may be brighter after the Brexit vote, but they will face plenty of competition. Days after the UK’s referendum, Dublin made its pitch to businesses, and it didn’t have to stress that English is spoken pretty widely there.