The French position on the UK-EU divorce has been one of the toughest, with centrist leader Emmanuel Macron, a vocal europhile, insisting a Brexit delay was neither easy nor automatic. Government figures on foreign investment were “good”, Mr Philippe told reporters in Paris, before underlining the “considerable” 33 per cent increase in British investment in 2018 compared to the previous year. He said: “The amounts invested by foreign companies in France have increased substantially. Nearly 25 per cent of these investments are concentrated in industry, and 10 per cent in research and development activities.
“And we have seen a considerable increase in British investment in France.
“This means that the measures taken by the government are producing their effect and inciting companies based in the United Kingdom to move their production to France to take into account the uncertainties related to Brexit.
“It’s great news for France and for the French economy. They’re good results we should be glad about.”
Paris launched a drive to tempt financial institutions from London after Brexit as early as October 2016, through a poster campaign with the slogan “Tired of the fog? Try the Frogs!”
Paris officials also promised British businesses that the capital could offer “stability” as the only “global city” that will be left in Europe when Britain quits.
In the past few years, France has overhauled its tax system and made changes to labour laws in an effort to create a more business-friendly environment. It has also reduced corporate tax and capped redundancy costs.
But Britain’s exit from the bloc – originally scheduled for last week – remains shrouded in fog.
Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday asking for a delay until up to June 30, but insisted she hoped to get Britain out of the EU earlier to avoid taking part in the European Parliament elections.
“The United Kingdom proposes that this period should end on 30 June 2019,” Mrs May said in the letter.
“The government will want to agree a timetable for ratification that allows the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union before 23 May 2019 and therefore cancel the European Parliament elections, but will continue to make responsible preparations to hold the elections should this not prove possible,” she added.
However, a senior EU official said that Mr Tusk was likely to offer Britain a flexible extension of up to a year, with the possibility of leaving sooner.
“The only reasonable way out would be a long but flexible extension. I would call it a ‘flextension’,” the source said.
But EU nations must give unanimous backing to any new deadline, and some could reject this plan.
A number of European leaders, like French President Emmanuel Macron, have stressed they would not accept an extension unless the British offer a clear reason as to why Brexit should be delayed yet again.
“We’re not there today,” a source close to Mr Macron told Reuters.
France has also stressed that it would not automatically give Britain whatever Mrs May asked for.
“If we are not able to understand the reason why the UK is asking for an extension, we cannot give a positive answer,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters in Bucharest.
Britain is now officially due to leave the EU in a week, but Mrs May has been forced to seek more time after lawmakers failed to approve her withdrawal agreement.
After finally recognising that her minority Conservative government could not push through a Brexit deal on its own, Mrs May started talks earlier this week with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the hope of coming up with a cross-party solution.
But that means accepting the need for more time, including the prospect that Britain might have to take part in the bloc’s parliamentary elections, something Mrs May wants to avoid at all cost.