Only a few jobs have been transferred, and those have easily been replaced. Sure, there will be the occasional attempt to reboot the campaign. Only last week, President Macron was rolling out the red carpet to welcome finance leaders such as JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon to a reception at Versailles, prompting the usual flurry of “City under threat” headlines.
In truth, most people will accept an invite to a party at Versailles if it turns up in their inbox. It doesn’t mean they are about to shift more than a few token jobs across the Channel. The blunt truth is the chance was there, and yet the EU managed to blow it.
Why did it go so badly? First Paris and Frankfurt, along with the Commission officials in Brussels, put way too much faith in rules and regulations. As so often, they appeared to believe they could simply legislate their way to commercial success. If they just put enough restrictions on trading, and came up with the right kind of laws, then the financiers would have no choice but to move.
And yet most of those rules can be easily worked around. If trades need to be executed through a computer somewhere else it is nothing the IT department can’t fix in a few days, while if a partner needs to be dialled into a conference call from a different European city that can be arranged at little extra cost.
Even worse, when business couldn’t be done in London, it could be switched to New York – which has market access – instead. The rules were not crucial.
Next, it was all carrot and no stick. The really bold move for Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam would have been to carve out a financial free trade zone, with lower taxes, easier employment rules, and lighter regulation (in effect, a bigger Monaco). Now that would have been a threat. But Brussels has long since forgotten that business needs incentives. It sticks rigidly to the dogma that threats are always enough.
In truth, the EU has made a mess of this. It has failed to win any significant business from Brexit. And the continent’s main financial centre – significant for a bloc that floats on a sea of debt – is now outside its regulatory orbit. Brussels has failed in lots of ways over the last couple of decades, from mis-managing the single currency, to stifling industry in red tape. But this will go down as one of the most glaring failures.